REVIEW by Willard
TAPE, by Stephen Belber,
comes to L.A. with quite a pedigree-- successful productions Off-Broadway
and at the 2000 Humana Festival, plus a quickie independent film shot
digitally by Richard Linklater, starring Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman.
The L.A. production is courtesy of Naked Angels, a New York-based theatre
company with a strong celebrity bias (its L.A. opening- night invitation
even listed the celebs who would be in attendance). The hype aside, TAPE
benefits from its past exposure.
All three actors in this triangle-drama have worked together on it in
the past, which makes for sharply defined characters, crisply handled
assured performances. The director, Geoffrey Nauffts, has been associated
with the play all along and must be credited with its swift, hard-driving
Belber, one of the three associate writers for The Laramie Project, writes
20-something characters well, particularly the two males, Vince (Dominic
Fumusa) and Jon (Josh Stamberg). Behind their boisterous, bumptious, frat-boy
facades, they are desperately trying to grow up. Though Vince is still
dealing dope for a living, Jon has become a "poet filmmaker"
and is about to show his first feature at the Lansing Film Festival, which
he hopes will lead to a Hollywood break.
We are introduced to these two old pals after a clumsy and unecessary
prologue, an offstage highschool party replete with pot- smoking, foul
language and lurid lighting. Then Belber gets down to the real drama,
Vince trying to get Jon to admit that he not only took his highschool
girlfriend Amy (Alison West) out after they broke up, but raped her at
a party. The long confrontation scene between the two of them, with Vince
trying to get at the truth and Jon trying to hide and then rationalize
his behavior, makes for
good drama. There is something strong at stake and the two manboys fight
like hell--sometimes literally--to defend their position. Vince's use
hidden tape recorder not only raises the stakes but gives the play its
The play's plot gears shift (and grind slightly) when Amy, now a successful
assistant district attorney, shows up and is forced by the two of them
to recall and eventually relive the date-rape night. The confrontation
retribution of a kind, with stunningly horrific results for all of them.
Belber's taut, acerbic, hard-hitting play will run through May 11 at Coast
Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollyuwood.
Call (323) 856-4200.