Broadway it's not.

From the outside, the Industrial Strength Theatre looks no different from its next-door neighbor, P&M Quality Machining Co., which makes protective covers for laptop computers on Air Force One, among other things.

Herndon's Sunset Business Park -- home to the theater, P&M and a host of other small businesses -- consists of several pods containing huge, one-story, white brick buildings with tiny windows and garage doors big enough to swallow an 18-wheeler.

Amid the kitchen remodeling and car repair shops, the theater is easily missed. It has no neon lights, no marquee -- just a plain white sign about the size of the side of a bathtub.

Don't be fooled by the drab outward appearance, though.

Since the theater opened in 1989, the Elden Street Players have built a reputation as the most ambitious, bold and risk-taking community theater in the region.

"Elden Street has done some rather on-the-edge things," said Anita Gardiner, president of the Northern Virginia Theatre Alliance. "They have taken steps that some of the other community theaters haven't been able to do, and doing material that other community theaters haven't done."

"Love! Valour! Compassion!" Terrence McNally's 1995 Tony Award winner, finished a four-week run last night. The play is about gay relationships and friendships and includes extensive nudity.

"It is unusual for a community theater to do a play like this," said producer Richard Klare, adding that the Elden Street Players have traveled down this road several times, and not always to wild reviews. "The fact is, you do some edgier shows like this, you take some risks, there are going to be some people who don't care for the subject matter or the show, and that's okay," he said.

The theater's list of productions runs the gamut, from shows such as "The Who's Tommy," "A Raisin in the Sun" and "The Man in the Glass Booth," to traditional musicals and children's plays.

Herndon Mayor Richard C. Thoesen, who has lived in the western Fairfax County town for 29 years, said the theater is part of the diversity that officials tried to nurture as the community evolved from a one-traffic-light dairymen's hub to a vibrant suburb with residents from many cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

Thoesen said the theater was the idea of the Sunset Business Park developer and was built with the support of the town, which still partially funds it. The mayor said the community takes pride in the avant-garde reputation the theater has built.

"It has been very successful, with over 100 performances, most of which have been very solid," Thoesen said. "I think everyone is very proud of the artistic endeavors, as well as the certain fabric it gives our community in terms of sophistication and the opportunity to get together socially to enjoy a play."

The mayor has been to many plays at the theater but didn't see "Love! Valour! Compassion!"

"I was aware of the play before it started" its run March 21, he said. "We embrace the First Amendment, and we support the director, who in this case is trying to keep the play as close as possible to the playwright's intent. I chose not to go to the play, and I think others have exercised that similar choice. We think it is a healthy way to run a theater -- we don't use a government filter."

Klare said the 150-seat theater sold out opening night and was about 80 percent full for subsequent performances.

The producer said that when he came to Herndon in the late 1970s, the community would not have been open to the kind of material the theater now presents regularly.

"We look at our audience and our base in the community," he said, "and there are different kinds of shows that you have to consider. Perhaps 15 years ago, we might not have been able to do this show, but I think the community has changed."

At the Industrial Strength Theatre in Sunset Business Park, the Elden Street Players offer a wide range of productions.Richard Klare, producer of "Love! Valour! Compassion!" a play about gay relationships, says the theater group is willing to take creative risks.