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BC High seniors do it all in presenting the drama ‘Orphans’ at school theater

“It’s amazing how people stop struggling when there’s a little blood.”
Funny/scary dialogue and unsettling performances power the action and tension in “Orphans,” an edgy drama that Newsday hailed as “a fast-talking adrenaline jolt.”

After previous productions had garnered ovations in Los Angeles and Chicago and on Broadway, this weekend the Boston Teen Acting Troupe (BTAT) will bring the three-character blockbuster to Dorchester. It just so happens that everyone involved in this show is a Boston College High School senior.

Opening tonight and running through Sunday at the Bulger Performing Arts Center at BC High, the BTAT premiere of Lyle Kessler’s “Orphans” will be the first professional production of the Drama-Logue-winning work produced, directed, designed, and performed by teenagers in Boston.

Philadelphia may be “The City of Brotherly Love,” but it’s more like “The City of Brotherly Mind-Games” in a run-down house in North Philly where two orphan brothers live: the reclusive, sensitive Phillip, sealed off in a world of StarKist tuna and Errol Flynn movies; and Treat, a violent pickpocket and thief. Into this ferocious and funny world enters Harold, a mysterious, wealthy, middle-aged man who is kidnapped by Treat, but who soon turns the tables on the two brothers, changing forever the delicate power and balance of their relationship. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, “Orphans” is a story of the universal love of a father for his son, and the son’s need to live his own life.

Three-time Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild Award Winner Jack Serio appears as Treat; Max Gustafson as Phillip: and Seamus Matlack as Harold. The production is directed by David Gentile and stage managed by Ashmont resident Nate Guevin.

According to Serio, who is headed to NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts next year, this contemporary play can get his fellow adolescent males excited about live theater in a way that maybe works by Shakespeare or Miller wouldn’t. Variety agrees, saying that “Orphans” is a “guy play from the get-go.”

The BTAT was founded in January of 2011 with the goal of bringing enriching, engaging, and edgy theater to teens, as well as providing an outlet for Boston teenagers who are serious about their craft, whether that is acting, directing, or design. The BTAT aims to eliminate the cliché of “bad high school theater” by producing challenging plays not normally seen portrayed by young actors.

Since 2011, BTAT has produced 10 completely teen-run shows in a variety of Boston and Cambridge venues. Coverage in The New York Times and on National Public Radio has created a fan following for the fledgling theater group. Before these BC seniors graduate they will do two more shows, each requiring female co-stars: “The Dream of the Burning Boy” by David West Read at the Calderwood Pavilion April 3-12; and later in the year, BTAT co-founder Catherine Spino will direct a revival of the Luigi Pirandello classic “Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Regular single tickets are $10 and $5 for students. Shows are today (Thursday) at 3 p.m., tomorrow and Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at bostonteenactingtroupe.com