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As it reaches out to youth, troupe needs to mature

Bare Minimum Productions is a new local stage company that aims to ''bring young people back to the theater." To do so, it's unveiling two new(ish) plays at the Boston Center for the Arts: ''Gender Bender," a comedy by producing director Anne Continelli, and ''Dear Daddy, Love Cassie," by Scarlett Ridgway Savage.

The troupe's noble ideal would be made nobler if Continelli and Savage showed any evidence that they had ever been to the theater instead of glued to their TV sets. And even that would be OK if they at least had been watching ''Curb Your Enthusiasm" or ''Six Feet Under," but Continelli seems to be auditioning for a writing spot on ''Will & Grace" and Savage for Lifetime TV movies. All of which raises the question: Why would young people pay upwards of $20 to see a half-baked version of what they can see for free?

''Gender Bender" starts off with a young, middle-class guy petrified that his trailer-trash parents will find out he's living with a woman. They think he's so nervous about introducing women to them because he's gay. A pair of Mormon missionaries enter the picture who, it turns out, have joined the church so they won't have to confront their own issues when it comes to sexuality.

''Dear Daddy, Love Cassie" is about a young woman who cuts her wrists and then, under psychological supervision, starts writing letters to her father, who died as a result of his own drunken driving.

Does any of this sound new to you? If this is what younger people want from theater, good luck to them. My guess, though, is that there has to be something beyond attitude and one-liners to get people of any age into the theater.

At least much of the acting is good, and it would be better with better material or direction. But ultimately, the two plays don't work because the authors, who are also the directors, do nothing new with language or stagecraft.

Both playwrights are in desperate need of a crash course with Kate Snodgrass at Boston Playwrights' Theatre. Young audiences deserve better than this. In fact, we all do.

Ed Siegel can be reached at

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