Jon Saltzman is a young filmmaker embarking on a promising career. His high school best friend Vince is a burn-out, low level drug dealer. They meet in a hotel room in Lansing, Michigan to catch up and, in Vince’s case, get even. To do so, Vince gets Jon to admit on tape that he date raped Amy, Vince’s high school girlfriend and first love. When Amy, now the assistant district attorney in Lansing, shows up, each one of them has to face the past and choose between forgiveness and justice.
Stephen Belber’s “Tape” is a gripping eighty minute one-act play that examines the intersection of guilt and memory. The play dramatizes the mechanisms through which the past is created – consensually sometimes, at other times rammed like a steel rod into the present. “Tape” was made into a movie ten years ago by Richard Linklater (of “Dazed and Confused” and “School of Rock” fame), starring Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Robert Leonard. Knife Edge Productions staging of the play at the June Havoc Theater at the Abingdon Arts Complex returns the play to its natural context – a black box theater with a minimal set and lots of room for great acting.
Don DiPaolo (Vince) and Neil Holland (Jon) are great together as two best frenemies. Holland carries smug self-assurance and crestfallen resignation equally well, and DiPaolo is particularly evocative as the skinny loser and conniver who has planned his moment of revenge for ten years, only to lose heart when push comes to shove. Therese Plaehn’s perfect ambivalence to what may (or may not) have been crimes committed against her character keeps the dramatic energy pulsing till the final blackout.
Sam Helfrich (director) and Laura Jellinek (scenic designer) collaborate to get optimal use out of little space. Though the scene is set in a motel room, Jon and Vince’s high school locker room lurks in the background, at the periphery of the characters’ collective memory. The big, round school clock on the wall is broken, frozen in time like Vince’s memory of high school and the crime that he says ruined his life.
Helfrich’s production of “Tape” is a compelling and entertaining hour and a half that will take you back to that special place where memories and made and revenge plots are hatched.