The song titles alone that make up the late-eighties/early-nineties soundtrack to playwright Patrick Wilde’s “What’s Wrong with Angry?” could summarize the teenage-angst onstage: “Under Pressure”; “Can’t Help Falling in Love”; “Everybody Hurts”; “A Little Respect.” But without intending to marginalize this funny, intimate and charming Circle Theatre production, I think the play will strike profounder chords with gay and gay-friendly audiences, especially those who came of age in the days of crimped hairstyles and colorful DayGlo (the latter briefly played homage to in a moment of inspired lighting design). Certainly the play, charting a gay teenager’s wonderfully miserable affair with the closeted high-school athlete, speaks to the universal feelings of exclusion felt by any “different” individual struggling to find a place at the sometimes unwelcoming social table. But it speaks loudest through its fearless-yet-humorous depictions of the male growing-up-gay experience: coming out to a homophobic father; the plutonic attraction behind gay men and their best girl “friends”; the ineffable appeal of public restrooms. With the help of a clever lighting and set design, the play’s strong visual appeal comes courtesy of director Michael Matthews’s sleight-of-hand staging techniques, a seamless and highly theatrical integration of montage, monologue and music. The unexpected ending is a courageous, challenging and ultimately rewarding finale for any audience member with a heart. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Circle Theatre, 7300 West Madison Street, Forest Park, (708) 771-0700. Thurs 8 pm 8/11, 8/18 & 8/25 only. Fri – Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm. $20-$22. Through August 28.