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STAGE REVIEW

Actor keeps edgy play well centered

Imani Henry's "B4T: Before Testosterone" is a well-made play, as long as you're willing to throw out every preconceived notion you have about such things. And that would be the point.

As one of the anchor pieces in the Theater Offensive's Out on the Edge Festival, "B4T" follows the layered stories of three black, masculine, female-bodied people through the use of video installments, monologues, and scenes. The title of the piece refers to the male hormone that some female-to-male transgender people take during their anatomical and psychological transition.

But "B4T" is not simply a play about that transition. It is a play about the human experience that just happens to have transgender persons at the center of the action. Skillfully inhabiting that center is Imani Henry. In alternating among his three characters, Henry educates without preaching and amuses without deprecating. From start to finish, it is a delicate balance, and Henry never missteps.

For half of the performance, Henry operates alone onstage, either on video or in a direct address to the audience. Whether playing his magnetic self, the handsome Keith, or the struggling LaShanda, Henry creates rich identities with little more than his body and his voice as tools. Henry also shares the stage with Renita Martin, who provides a strong if quirky performance as a graduate student conducting research interviews on the transgender experience. Martin ably fulfills her responsibility as character foil and, with a wink, illustrates how academe has yet to catch up to real life.

B4T: Before Testosterone

A performance in one act, written and performed by Imani Henry.

Directed by: Maureen Shea. Video by Ava Berkosky. Presented by the Theater Offensive.

At: Boston Center for the Arts, through Sundaytomorrow, 617-426-2787, www.thetheateroffensive.org

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