TERRITORIES by Niki Landau (Theatre Passe Muraille/Obsidian/Theatre Panik). Runs through November 27. See Continuing Theatre Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Niki Landau's Territories, expanded from the award-winning SummerWorks production, puts a neat theatrical spin on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Landau, whose script purposely calls attention to its theatricality, plays with several ideas, including who has the right to tell a story. Her key metaphor, though, comes from the sports world: she compares the volleying back and forth of issues involving faith and friendship, politics and personal history, to a tennis game.
Under Paul Lampert 's precise direction, what starts out as a monologue becomes a dramatic dialogue as the Jewish Canadian Sarah (Landau) argues with Hisham ( Sam Khalilieh ), a Palestinian who feels as entitled as she does to the land. Both believe they're honouring individual losses and championing a just cause.
Mixed into the discussion are cultural stereotypes, lots of impasses and a gradual awareness that what's important isn't cut-and-dried answers but, rather, carefully phrased questions.
The show is dramatically and intellectually engaging and often humorous, though Sarah lacks Hisham's expressive range. Maybe that's intentional on the playwright's part, but Hisham also has a warmth and charm, even in his angry moments, that's more winning than Sarah's anxieties and insecurities.
Still, there's a clear sexual tension between the pair, a chemistry that catches the audience up in a debate that involves the mind and the heart.
But as good as it is, this is a piece that keeps lobbing its arguments - both intellectual and emotional - for too long. The point's made before the end of the 80-minute production, and the ball gets tossed back and forth between equally matched players in an unnecessary overtime.