The joy, turbulence and agony of being a tween are so effectively conveyed in Dan LeFranc's Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, that you forgive him his excesses. After all, if you can't be excessive telling the story of a troubled 12-year-old, when can you?
LeFranc's play, now having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a coming-of-age story cleverly disguised as a hyperactive, hyper-verbal adventure story invented by a bright kid with some deep-seeded emotional problems. Constructed in three acts with two intermissions, the play begins as spin on the noir genre. Instead of hardboiled detectives and criminals, we have Bradley Boatright, a Rhode Island seventh grader. And instead of all that cool Sam Spade dialogue, we have Bradley's own invented slang that's a whole lot more lively and fun. The words "freak" and "freakin" carry much of the load, as do "spangles, "intel" and "a-hole." It's pretend swearing to such an outrageous level that it's actually beautiful in its own poetic way.