Stephen Belber’s harrowing and literate psychological drama has lost none of its pertinence since its 2000 debut, largely because the questions it raises about guilt, responsibility, selfishness vs. selflessness, and the ways we choose to come to terms with recollections of our past—or mentally erase them—are issues that we grapple with throughout our lives. A motel-room reunion among three former high school friends moves from cordial kidding around to mysteriously escalating tensions to startling revelations to enigma. The best thing about Belber’s smart and layered script is the way it explores the phenomenon of moral ambiguity and other thorny dilemmas that prevent us from tying life’s myriad emotional trials into a tidy bow.
This play has been revived in L.A. fairly often, and was adapted into an excellent 2001 Richard Linklater film, so it’s not the kind of piece that springs to mind when one thinks of a fringe festival. But to give credit where it is unquestionably due, I’ll go on a limb to say this is the finest Hollywood Fringe Festival production I’ve seen since the festival’s 2010 bow. Elissa Weinzimmer’s direction beautifully dovetails the thriller elements of this work with its remarkable subtext and rich psychological foundation. Acted to perfection by Jason Karasev, Donald Rizzo, and Juliana Long Tyson and tastefully realized in a bare-bones staging, this production deserves widespread audience support. Remember the name of the producing entity: Identity Productions.
Tape is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and runs June 14, 18, 21, and 22 at Artworks Theatre. For tickets, see hollywoodfringe.org/projects/878
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