Thursday, September 15, 2011
It seems we never leave high school. In the revival of Stephen Belber’s Tape, the indelible mark of former school days permeates the adult perimeters of its character’s lives—a sentiment established from the onset by scenic designer Laura Jellinek’s placement of a string of lockers and gym wall markings that surround the main set. Although, the action strays into that area just once, this second set serves as a physical reminder of the past’s lasting resonance.
Tape depicts the story of two best friends, Vince (Don DiPaolo) and Jon (Neil Holland) and their reunion in a Motel 6 room when the latter’s movie is showcased at the Lansing, Michigan, film festival. Vince, a good-natured 28-year-old dope dealer and volunteer fire fighter, greets his more-successful buddy warmly, but secretly plans a confrontation involving his former girlfriend (Therese Plaehn as Amy). As the two fall into a patter of one upmanship—a verbal volleyball that soon becomes terse and heated-Jon’s modern-day rationalizations of himself are re-examined.
Besides a drama of John Knowles-like themes, Belber showcases the vagaries of perception and how humans manipulate images, often abdicating responsibility for their actions. All three characters offer false versions of themselves, from Vince putting stray cheetos on his dresser to create an unkempt look, to Amy’s tightly contained, professionally suited assistant D.A. dress. All construct a version of what they want others to see. The truth depends on the storyteller.
DiPaolo (The Seagull with Curan Rep) imbues Vince with a humanity that makes his character seem vulnerable and appealing despite glaring flaws. His presence anchors the sometimes slow unfolding of this revenge-laced intrique. The play, which premiered at the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays, remains relevant and offers a provocative look at how who we are and what we did in the past infiltrates our future. Sam Helfrich, who directed Belber’s Transparency of Val, helms this limited run (through Sept. 24) at the June Havoc Theatre in the Abingdon Theater Arts Complex.
(press ticket, general seating)