FREGOLI THEATRE has enjoyed a fine 2016 with its successful tour of Jarlath Tivnan’s Pleasure Ground, followed by this latest production, a strong staging of American author Stephen Belber’s intense three-hander, Tape.
The action takes place in a Michigan motel room where old buddies Vince and Jon meet up. Vince (Peter Shine ), whose girlfriend has recently kicked him out for his ‘violent tendencies’, is a cut-price Stanley Kowalski decked out in vest and boxers, swilling cans of beer and toking on joints. Jon (Jarlath Tivnan ) is a budding film maker with pricy shoes and intellectual pretensions who chides Vince for his poor lifestyle choices.
Vince starts doggedly raking up an incident from their past, the prom night in senior year when Jon got together with Vince’s ex-girlfriend Amy. Increasingly discomfited by Vince’s grilling, Jon finally admits that he coerced Amy into having sex. Vince then triumphantly produces the tape which gives the play its title, revealing that he has recorded Jon’s confession.
Jon’s shock and anguish is swiftly stoked up even further when Amy (Eilish McCarthy ) –who works as an assistant D.A. in the same town- also arrives, because Vince hopes to orchestrate a showdown where Jon will be forced beg her forgiveness. But Amy promptly refutes the men’s version of events and refuses to play along with the scenario Vince has envisaged.
Belber packs a lot in to his short play, not least the charged subject of date rape. There are also themes of male rivalry, memory, guilt, hypocrisy and pretension. It’s very reminiscent of the works of Neil LaBute, especially in the way that so-called friends seem driven to take each other down. Indeed, none of the three characters are particularly likeable (again reminiscent of LaBute ) and that core of heartlessness prevents one from fully empathising with their predicaments.
That said, the play’s sinewy verbal jousting and sudden emotional shifts keeps things well charged throughout. The stripping away of the characters’ motivations is visually echoed in Jack Scullion’s nifty set design where he shows the lagging materials, copper piping and electric wiring of the motel room while Rob McFeely’s taut direction gets strong performances from all three actors. Well worth seeing in short.
Tape is on tonight, Wednesday, and Thursday, at 8pm. Tickets are available at the door of the Nuns Island Theatre.