Written by Stephen Belber
When high school buddies Vince and Jon reunite in a Motel 6 ten years after graduating, there's more in store for them than just reminiscing. Vince raises some long-unanswered questions and simmering accusations about an evening Jon spent with Vince's girlfriend a decade ago. Just when the tension couldn't get any thicker, there's a knock on the door. What follows is a brutal examination of the past forcing each character to take a closer look at themselves. By the conclusion, audiences will be hard-pressed not to do the same. FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
"...an excellent fast-moving play that combines moral debate and contemporary social commentary with wicked humour."
June 26-28 at 7:30 p.m.
Baylor Theatre's "Tape" - fast forward to the good parts
By Carl Hoover, Waco Tribune-Herald
June 26, 2008
Stephen Belber's three-person drama "Tape," whose three-performance Baylor Theatre run opened Thursday night at Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, is one of those plays whose value lies in the questions that are raised or post-play discussions that take onstage action and flesh them out with real-world behavior.
So while the short play deals with date rape, self-identity, deception and manipulation, Belber doesn't come to a firm conclusion about any of those as much as bat those balls into the audience for viewers to consider - a perfectly valid role for theater.
In "Tape," two close friends from high school meet again 10 years later in a Lansing, Mich., motel room. Jon (Justin Locklear) is in town for the screening of his movie at the Lansing Film Festival; Vince (Sky Bennett) has come in from Oakland, Cal., for the occasion.
From the beginning of their reunion, however, something is not right. Jon soon brushes off the high school buddy banter to prod Vince about his latest failed relationship, a failure Vince attributes to his violent tendencies, and Vince's continuing career as a small drug dealer supplying aging hippies in the Bay area. It's not clear, though, why Jon is on the offensive so soon even though he says he's simply caring for a friend.
Vince, too, has an agenda in his counter-questioning: He wants to know what happened between Jon and Vince's ex-girlfriend Amy that night late in their senior year. Did Jon coerce Amy into sex? More specifically, did Jon rape her? When Jon confesses that maybe kinda sorta he did, Vince reveals he had been taping their conversation. Armed with the incriminating tape, he tries to knock his high school friend off the moral high ground he had been occupying.
Then Amy (Shaun Patterson) shows up at the motel room, invited by Vince, but not realizing Jon was there, too. She's now an assistant prosecutor and her presence puts the play in a higher gear (Patterson's controlled performance also steadies the play). Amy has her own set of questions and her own memories of the incident in question. Soon the professional interrogator shows the boys who's the adult in the room, springing a trap that reveals their ostensible concern for her merely masks a personal selfishness.
Director Dan Buck gets good performances from his cast, given the play's heavy emotional - and adult - content. Belber's drama, however, feels like an extended acting exercise. There's plenty of tension and emotion, but the audience often is left puzzled by what's really motivating Jon and Vince; what's expressed doesn't fully answer it.
Why does Jon start criticizing Vince so soon if they haven't seen each other in years? Is it simple jealousy that's driving Vince to wrest a confession from Jon, or the three beers, one joint and two lines of cocaine that he ingests in the span of some 20 minutes? (Program notes, incidentally, remind the audience that Baylor doesn't condone such behavior.)
I didn't see "Tape" so much about the subject of date rape as the manipulation of others, either through fear, words, force or emotional intimidation. There's plenty to chew on, however, and viewers might want to plan on some post-play discussion. Just turn off those tape recorders.
"Tape" continues with performances at 7:30 tonight (June 27) and Saturday at Theater 11 in Baylor's Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Tickets cost $10; call 710-1865.