Booze - the play - is about how you find yourself when you're only trying to escape.
In the play Booze (now playing through August 28 at The Churchill Tavern on East 28th Street) two young girls meet outside a London nightclub.
Emma (Finty Kelly) is a middle class teen who's trying and failing to prove that she's far more grown up than she is and Morgan (Aida Leventaki) is a working class Scottish blow-in who's running away from her past, her nation and her family commitments for one night only.
Both are just 17, with it all still ahead of them. What's immediately interesting about the two girls is that although they come from different countries and from different classes, they're exactly the same age and, it becomes clear pretty quickly, they share broadly the same outlooks that give them deep insights into what makes one and other tick.
George Heslin, the Limerick born artistic director of Origin Theatre Company and the 1st Irish Theatre Festival, has ideally cast Booze with gifted young actors primarily culled from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and this lucid production showcases all of their strengths.
When Booze starts, we see two teenage girls doing what most teenage girls dream of, escaping the daily tedium of their lives in the hope of finding something a little better, romance say, or failing that, a quick hook up.
When Emma first meets Morgan she is decidedly unimpressed. Her trainers shout working class and her sports gear says not my type. Morgan is equally unimpressed with Emma's snobbery and her all too obvious "I'm grown up" act.
On stage, Kelly and Leventaki have sensational chemistry together and they alternate between friend and opponent with remarkable ease. Playwright Eris Khouzam knows how to craft scenes that fairly crackle with life and authenticity and she knows how to drive a narrative with a very light touch.
From the opening scene (Booze is performed upstairs in The Churchill Tavern) it's clear this will be a night that changes both young girls lives and the barometer is set for storms.
As soon as the two girls decide to pair up in search of a great night right out, on cue some local boys arrive and try to pick them up. So far, so familiar. But what Khouzam does then is inject an element of real danger and consequence. Who are these boys, can they even be trusted? What are their intentions and what will the night bring?
Morgan has the edge on Emma in terms of life's hard knocks and she can see trouble coming a mile off. She knows before her pal does that things are going south. James Evans plays the night's sulpherous ringleader backed by up Finlay Paul and Alistair Don as two hapless but decent skins who haven't grasped what a sociopath they're palling around with. (Evans is terrific as the menacing posh boy who keeps revealing new layers of villainy as the play progresses).
Heslin keeps this site-specific production moving along like gangbusters, but he allows us ample time to get to know the two girls and he allows the play to show us just how far they have to fall in the years ahead. Booze isn't an easy watch, but its never less than captivating thanks to the ensemble work this prodigiously talented cast.