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by Stephen Belber

At the urgent request of my friend Tobin (read: angry text messages/twitter urgings) I decided to read Tape. This is another play that I have read before but had remembered little of the details (perhaps because they are not memorable? Just kidding Mr. Moss.)

I choose my plays mostly at random, depending on what's speaking to me that day, but I somehow end up reading them in themes... this week I've stumbled upon plays that speak to old friends coming back into your life after an extended amount of time away... for better or worse. In The Country Club you could argue that things end well (if compromising is ending well) but in Tape things aren't quite so happy.

The story centers on two guys, meeting up at a film festival ten years after graduating high school, during which they both dated the same girl - Amy. Through some tough pressuring, Vince coerces a confession out of his friend Jon that he actually raped Amy at the end of senior year. He records the conversation and threatens to give the tape to Amy, now an assistant district attorney, in SURPRISE! the same town as the film festival. Jon panics but before he can get the tape back, Amy arrives at the hotel to take Vince to dinner. She sees the place is a mess and that Vince has clearly been drinking. He tells her to shove off but she says:
It's only because I care about you. You were my first boyfriend. It's inevitable. You could turn into a dirty old man and I'd still care.
Why is that so true? I think the first person you feel love for becomes such an important part of who you are.

As the play goes on we learn that Amy doesn't believe she was raped. Though Jon firmly believes he raped her and feels remorse for his actions (but only now, ten years later). How interesting/frightening to think that one intimate act could be interpreted so differently. And yet, we have to wonder if Amy is telling the truth. It's quite ambiguous in the play and could ultimately be left up to the actress and director - it could be played that she's lying through her teeth and her true feelings are revealed in her outburst to Jon or it could be played that she truly feels it was consensual sex and when she digs into Jon it's only to prove some point to Vince.

Even more interesting to me is the optional prologue and epilogue. They are both organized at the end of the main play and in the note from the author he encourages us to use both or neither when performing the play. I'm not crazy about the prologue - which basically dramatizes the party at which the "rape" took place. The epilogue, however, is interesting to me, because we see some growth in the characters. Vince is somewhat redeemed from the drinking, brute of a guy we first see him as. His deep love for Amy still haunts him fifteen years after high school and he says via voicemail to Jon:
I've been in love with her for seventeen years, Jon. I have. And just because it started in high school, does that make it wrong? If a person strips away everything about them that's stupid... down to where only the fundamental feelings are left... and those feelings are the same as they were when they first met, then aren't they legitimate?
Ultimately I would argue that this is Vince's play. Even though the sexual act occurred between Jon and Amy, what is most interesting is the vulnerability this causes in Vince. He carries it with him for more than a decade and attempts to get revenge. As in most revenge plays (uh, anyone see Hamlet?) things don't really end well. Especially if you leave off the epilogue. At least no one dies in this one!

Sunday Play-a-day: Quills by Doug Wright

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