We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

If you can get past the cumbersome title, A Frontier, as told by the Frontier is a smart coming-of-age drama about our need to preserve ritual. Playwright Jason Gray Platt constructs his unlikely plot around an unspoken apocalypse: There was some sort of cataclysm, and four naïve teenagers only have a dim sense of what exactly happened. Nafts (Scott McCormick) is the only adult around, and he keeps them busy with reenactments of fables that serve as thinly veiled propaganda. Each of the four kids has an animal character to play—-Mouse, Fox, Owl, and Bear—-and they’re committed to their roles, although they’re not so sure why.

There are some details about this husk of a world. Nafts and the kids have spent their entire lives in an abandoned park, and while there’s plenty of food, the electricity no longer works. Each of the kids encounters a crisis, but they revolve around Feola (Maggie Erwin), Nafts’ daughter. She wants to move beyond the walls of the park, and she tries to persuade the other three to join her. The scenes are the best in the play: Each conflict is specific, and they highlight how teenagers might act without any culture or civilization to guide them. Kyle Encinas is the stand-out as Barker, a goofy kid who can barely articulate his feelings for Feola. He knows he loves her, but Nafts drills into his head that love does not exist, so the acknowledgment of affection has added danger. It’s a delicate scene, and the young actors handle it well.

Problems arise, unfortunately, when Platt struggles to find an ending. There’s an 11th-hour reveal that’s shocking in all the wrong ways (it violates a basic dramatic principle because an important prop comes out of nowhere). Worse yet, it cheapens Kita Grayson‘s performance, which tows the line between a verbose, warm-hearted girl and a youthful nuisance. But even with its regrettable climax, A Frontier, as told by the Frontier still has plenty to say about knowledge, failure, and self-doubt. It’s mature stuff, even if only one of the characters is over the age of 18.

Runs 3 p.m. on June 23, 8 p.m. on June 27, and 8 p.m. on June 30

Photo: C. Stanley Photography