By JOAN TADDIE
Written by Stephen Belber, “Tape” is a dark comedy which made its professional debut at The Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays. In 2001, it was turned into a film directed by Richard Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Uma Thurman.
Set in a seedy motel room in 1999 Lansing, Michigan, the long one-act concerns three old friends reuniting 10 years after high school graduation. Vince is a volunteer fire-fighter who sells drugs to his chief. Jon is a film director being featured at the Lansing Film Festival. The two attempt to reestablish their friendship until Vince reminds Jon of his aggressive sexual behavior in high school. This leads to Vince’s accusation that 10 years ago Jon date raped Amy, Vince’s old girlfriend and who Vince still loves. Jon responds to Vince by saying he didn’t date rape Amy, he only “verbally coerced” her with “excessive linguistic pressure” to have sex with him.Zack Roundy, as Vince, brilliantly drives the energy of this play, many times without a word of dialogue. He attempts to anesthetize his personal demons with alcohol, pot, and cocaine; and grows manic as he struggles to get Jon to confess on tape that he raped Amy. And, although Vince is a mess physically and psychologically, he can be childlike and endearing, especially when he focuses on his memory of Amy.
If the character of Vince can be described as a loser, then Jon, masterly portrayed by Joey Ginel, is most definitely a winner. When Jon arrives at the sleazy motel room to take his old high school friend out to dinner, he is dressed for success, down to his $150 pair of shoes. Mr. Ginel’s physical reactions to the nasty and dirty environment of the motel room add humor and contrast to Vince’s disregard for class and cleanliness.
Mr. Roundy and Mr. Ginel flawlessly move through this emotional web and keep the audience totally engaged in their individual struggles. Most notable is the violent fist fight which, although on a stage with limited area, is explosive and realistic. Both actors transform into almost primitive, animalistic frenzy.The character of Amy does not make an entrance until near the end of the play. Megan Raitano, as Amy, gives a solid and disciplined performance as the Assistant District Attorney of the Lansing Justice Department. Ms. Raitano expertly weaves her way through conflicting perceptions of what really happened leaving more questions than answers.
Director Pam Harbaugh’s smart and clever direction and her attention to the many details of the multiple and changing perspectives of the events of the past, keep this 80=minute emotional bombardment tightly focused.Added to this successful formula is an exceptional set, designed by Sam DiGeorge. Her many intelligent choices give the actors all the trapping of a tacky 1990’s motel, so that their characters can discover more and more connections to their place in time and location.
Marco DiGeorge’s amazing lighting, video and sound design establishes the mood and pulls the audience into the actor’s world, especially during the pre-show when music videos and snippets of popular television shows of the 90’s appears on the TV that Vince is watching.Yes, there is also a pre-show. Audience members arriving early can “become voyeurs” as Vince checks into the seedy motel room and methodically prepares for his encounter with Jon and Amy.
There is a small theatre, less than a year old, tucked away in Orlando’s Edgewood neighborhood called The Theatre on the Edge. It seats about 30 patrons and is connected to the Truthful Acting Studios where actors are trained in the Meisner approach. Good things are happening there.
“Tape” is happening there. Don’t miss this production!
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Tape” runs through March 19, performing mostly 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, and 7 p.m. March 15. There are exceptions, so click here for more info. Tickets are $19 and $22. Theater on the Edge is at 5542 Hansel Avenue, Orlando (about 10 minutes from the airport). Email firstname.lastname@example.org.