Sometimes reality is so bizarre, it has to be toned down when adapted to fiction. Such was the case with Adam Cass's play I Love You, Bro, which opened at The Street Theatre last night.
Directed by David Berthold, the La Boite production is based on the real-life case of a teenager who was convicted of inciting a murder: his own.
Leon Cain, the sole actor in the piece, said, ''It's a true story; it's just so freaking unbelievable.''
In the play, Johnny is a 14-year-old boy, the product of a broken home, unhappy and lonely. He spends hours in online chatrooms and eventually strikes up a conversation with another teenager who goes by the online name Marky Mark who thinks he's talking to a girl.
Desperately wanting friendship - or is it love? - but aware he can't reveal himself as a boy now, Johnny devises an elaborate ruse beginning with such characters as the girl's stepbrother, ''Johnny'', and snowballing into an ever more complicated story involving gangsters, secret agents and, in the end, a tragedy.
Cain, who plays all the characters, said: ''The way it unfolds it just keeps going as the audience wonders, and it gets more and more unbelievable: it just takes you with it the whole way.''
The 28-year-old actor, who's worked with Bell Shakespeare, La Boite and the Queensland Theatre Company, first appeared in the play two years ago, winning two Matilda Awards in Queensland for his work. Although far from a teenager now, he knew how to convey the essence of being an adolescent.
''I normally have a beard but if I shave and cut my hair the years come off,'' he said.
And for the emotional side, he drew on his own teenage years in Queensland when MSN chat rooms were popular and he and his friends had ''D & Ms'' (deep and meaningfuls) at night.
I Love You, Bro is on at Street 2, The Street Theatre, tonight until Saturday and May 22-26 at 7.30pm and Sunday at 6pm. Tickets $35 full, $32 concession, $25 student. Bookings: 6247 1223.