What do you do when your past comes back to haunt you?
Such is the running theme in this revival of Stephen Belber’s Tape, directed by Sam Helfrich. The play tells the story of two former high school best friends, Jon (Neil Holland) and Vince (Don DiPaolo) discover just that when a ten-year reunion starts to unlock secrets from their past. Jon, an aspiring filmmaker, is in town for the Lansing film festival, where one of his films is screened. He meets with Vince in a Motel 6 where a friendly conversation soon becomes an interrogation.
Niceties are made, jokes are thrown around and memories are shared — particularly that of one night Jon spent with a girl named Amy (Therese Plaehn). Through Belber’s sparse but witty dialogue, we soon learn that Jon had not only dated her, but Vince as well. The conversation starts off innocently enough — Vince asks about the night of a high school friend’s party their senior year, and how far things went between Jon and Amy, both of whom had gotten together shortly after she and Vince had broken up. It is here the conversation takes a dramatic turn, as Vince’s inquiries start to suggest that things had gone too far and reveal his own suspicions of rape. He claims that Amy had confided this to him, an idea that leaves Jon speechless.
Jon’s memories of the night are muddled, and though he was sure at first that nothing happened, he begins to doubt himself. The interrogation reaches new heights when, after much prodding and accusation from Vince, Jon caves in and confesses to the act. At this, Vince takes a tape recorder out from his pocket and replays the conversation.
The question of what to do with the tape hangs in the air, as Vince tells Jon that Amy is coming over, at his invitation. Both are still recovering from the initial shock of Jon’s confession when Amy, now an Assistant District Attorney, makes a revelation of her own: that the supposed rape never happened.
The play toys with the concept of memory; how malleable it is and how it can change over time to suit our needs. What we perceive a certain memory to be is not necessarily what we remember, and Tape not only walks that fine line, but dares to explore it further. For Jon, he started doubting his initial memories fooling around with Amy (as any other pair of teenagers would do at a party) to conceding to Vince’s telling of it being a bit on the rough side. Amy counters this, insisting that the roughest it got was when he covered her mouth during the act. We never really know whether Amy did truly remember or not; whether she was lying just to test the two, or whether it really hadn’t been rape at all.
Both Holland and DiPaolo played off one another very well, and I very much believed them in their roles. Holland seemed to find the right balance of anger, resentment and confusion throughout; DiPaolo’s performance gave so much life to Belber’s often comic dialogue (“I’m not high and mighty. I’m too high to be high and mighty!” comes to mind), and had a great energy that played well against Holland’s Jon. Plaehn also brought an interesting energy to the overall dynamic, and between the three of them, they seemed to really physically inhabit these roles instead of just playing characters — even the silences and beats between lines just felt right with all of them in the room, distant from one another and yet having so much history between them.
Images courtesy of Sal Cacciato.
Tape ran from September 9th – 24th in the June Havoc Theatre at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex. For more information on the cast and creatives, go here. Click to vote for it in the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.