Territory is a terrific new play presented by the newly formed Bottle Factory Theater. Written and directed by Lawrence Levine, the script captures the awkwardness of conversation -- the lulls, unfinished sentences, and hidden meanings behind a person's words.
The three-actor ensemble is uniformly excellent. Grant Varjas as James has a quirky, dynamic presence that drives most of the action. John B. Good, as Ben, conveys volumes through his understated delivery and deadpan manner. Finally, Amanda Gruss has perfected a dour expression that seems to convey multiple messages whenever she fixes her gaze on another character. These three work well together, playing off each others' energy in seemingly spontaneous ways.
Alliances keep shifting throughout the play as more and more details are divulged. James's presence and seemingly offhand questions reveal just how little Maya and Ben actually talk to each other. Maya knows nothing of her boyfriend's younger, wilder days spent with James and a mystery woman named Vera; at the same time, James has a nostalgic longing for the past that threatens Maya and Ben's present relationship. All the characters tell lies and, eventually, are caught in them.
Sean Higgins and Michael Knowles have designed a handsomely naturalistic set, complete with a kitchen sink! The presence of a well stocked liquor shelf is an immediate clue as to how things are going to go. Author Levine uses some predictable devices, such as the late hour and the free flow of alcohol, to loosen his characters' tongues; but the play is so well written that it avoids cliché.
The script is full of edgy, character-driven humor, and the light and funny tone grows darker as the show progresses. With a running time of one hour and 10 minutes, the intermissionless Territory is crisply paced all the way through to its heartbreaking conclusion.
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