Tape

Stephen Belber
Soho Theatre
(2003)

Soho is often at its best when it imports new writing from the United States. Tape is a very high quality drama that brings to mind the work of Neil Labute and Kenneth Lonergan.

It has already toured widely in the States and been filmed with Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. Now Soho has managed to import the American cast to give the 75 minute three-hander a British premiere.

Jon and Vince have been the closest of buddies since High School. Now they have a mini reunion in the middle of nowhere in Michigan, as Jon's first film is released. The meeting takes place in a damp-stained motel room, designed by Lisa Lillywhite, that may never have seen better times.

At first glance, it is easy to see who is the success. Jon is a serious-minded man who wants to make films that analyse his country. By contrast, Vince deals and takes excessive quantities of drugs and has never grown up.

The tables begin to turn as the pair recall the period around their high school graduation. The jealous Vince forces Jon to expose his darker side onto the eponymous tape.

This catharsis is an interesting enough subject but when their old girlfriend, Amy, who is now an assistant DA, turns up,` the investigation of right and wrong achieves a new, higher plain.

Under the direction of Geoffrey Nauffts, Dominic Fumusa, Josh Stamberg and Alison West all give good performances and exude the confidence that goes with touring a production for an extended period. This is an excellent fast-moving play that combines moral debate and contemporary social commentary with wicked humour.

Philip Fisher