Other Plays by Stephen Belber
Belber, Stephen (American playwright, 19__-____), “Tape,”
a __-minute one-act drama or 63-minute full-length drama in English, set in a motel room, Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A., 2002,
© 2001 by Stephen Belber;
• in Stephen Belber’s one-act Tape (______: The Author, 2001);
• script/rights available from Stephen Belber, _______.
Jon (m), __, an aspiring filmmaker; Vince (m), __, his best friend from high school; Amy Randall (f), __, whom Jon and Vince dated in high school, now an assistant district attorney. § Synopsis “Jon, an aspiring filmmaker on the verge of hitting it big, hooks up for the weekend with his best friend from high school, Vince, a volunteer fireman who makes his money selling dope. Jon's new film is being shown at a festival in Lansing, Michigan, and Vince has come from Oakland to see it. Over the course of the evening, Vince finally gets Jon to admit that ten years ago he date-raped Amy Randall, a girl whom they both dated in high school—only then to reveal that he's taped their entire conversation. And not only that, he's invited Amy to have dinner with them that night. Beneath its suspenseful, high-stakes surface, TAPE examines questions of motive, memory, truth and perception.”—Dramatists Play Service, Inc., http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?index=0&key=3091, accessed August 25, 2007.
“When Jon attends the premier of his movie in the Lansing Film Festival, he faces the most important weekend of his young life–but not in ways he expected. His old pal, Vince, has been stewing for a decade and their high school friend, Amy, is now the assistant district attorney in Lansing. Edgy humor gives way to fiery confrontation and the questioning of memory and perception.”—Full Record (Library of Congress Online Catalog), http://catalog.loc.gov/, accessed August 25, 2007.
Comment on one-act version by Colin Thomas, November 4, 2004
“By Stephen Belber. Directed by Matthew Harrison. Presented by If You Can't Beat 'Em Productions in association with Chambar. At Squire John's Playhouse until November 13 . This evening offers the same one-act about rape performed twice in a row by different casts. Oh boy. In playwright Stephen Belber's Tape, three high-school friends reunite 10 years after graduation for an hour of dramatic purging of past sins and pain. A drug dealer named Vince engineers the meeting, which also involves his best pal, Jon, an emerging film director, and Amy, who works as an assistant district attorney. Before Amy arrives, the drunken, stoned Vince goads his earnest buddy into admitting that he raped Amy at the end of their senior year--and gets Jon's confession on tape. On some levels, Belber deals seriously with sexual violation, but it seems that his first priority is to entertain, to give his audience an emotional buzz by creating a high-stakes drama. In that sense, the play is sensationalist: rape becomes secondary and the script feels exploitative. The text's structural flaws reveal Belber's vulgar strategy: to keep the pressure cooker going, the playwright is willing to sacrifice a lot of things, including logic. When Jon arrives to find his old friend almost sociopathically belligerent, why doesn't he leave? When Vince hands the tape over to Jon, why does Jon give it back? Sure, you can find justifications for the plot unfolding as it does, but I think the real explanation is that Belber wants to keep escalating the tension. And the story wouldn't be nearly as intense if Vince, the dangerous loony, wasn't running the show. In the cast that plays Tape through the first time, Jeb Beach takes the role of Vince, and he delivers an inspired though annoying performance. Beach's Vince resembles a Quentin Tarantino character, all quirky, mercurial threat. He's snakelike, operating from some instinct one can't identify, and his dangerous spontaneity is impressive in its way. But who really wants to spend time with this guy? Vince is kind of cool, but he's also a cheap trick, the embodiment of the script's sensationalism. In the first cast's interpretation, he's loud, too. As part of the general theme of intensity, Beach hollers and Noah Casey, who plays Jon, bellows back in response. Whacks of text get lost in the noise. This approach works better than the second cast's take, though. Chad Cole, who plays Vince in round two, chooses a quieter route. He and Sage Brocklebank (Jon) deliver their lines more clearly. At first, it's a welcome relief and subtler meanings emerge, but without the artificially heightened drama the central character can provide, jokes start to fall flat and dramatic turns feel minor. As off-putting as the first cast's approach can be, I think it's more in line with the nature of the script. I suspect that's how you have to play it to make it work, which is why I don't much like the play. To give Belber and his interpreters here their due, strengths exist in both the material and this exploration of it. Belber manages two surprising plot reversals with Amy, and ultimately she takes control, which is thematically smart. I like both Amys. The first cast's Nicole McLennan is more inward: her catharsis is almost an implosion. Cast two's Jennifer Halley weeps more overtly dramatic tears of rage. But both actors exude quiet strength. Similarly, I appreciate both the bewildered pomposity of Casey's Jon and the more transparent innocence of Brocklebank's. It might be interesting to see how the script would look if the actor playing Vince landed somewhere between Beach's outrageous portrait and Cole's quieter interpretation. But I'm not ready to see Tape a third time; I don't think the text warrants that kind of scrutiny.“—Theatre | Tape | Straight.com Vancouver, http://www.straight.com/article/tape, accessed August 25, 2007.
Comment on full-length version
• "TAPE is terrific…Belber has expert fun torturing his characters with the things that never get said, yet the language is uniquely telling and the underlying grief shines through."—The New Yorker.
• "Fascinating and entertaining…a terrific play…Real talk, real characters, real situations—a real play."—NY Post.
• "…when it comes to reminding us just why we leave our homes on a cold winter's night and seek the special joys of a live theatrical performance, playwright Stephen Belber has the big guys beat…"—Wall Street Journal.
• "TAPE is a sordid and beautiful take on human relationships."—Show Business Weekly.
• Full-length version first staged in England at Soho Theatre, 2003, following off-Broadway run.
• Full-length version in Stephen Belber’s Tape (London: Nick Hern Books, 2003), ISBN 1854597701, ISBN 978-1854597700, 96 pp., email@example.com, http://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk, Nick Hern Books Ltd, The Glasshouse, 49a Goldhawk Road, London W12 8QP, United Kingdom, telephone 020 8749 4953, fax 020 8735 0250.
• script/rights for the full-length version available from Dramatists Play Service, 440 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, U.S.A., telephone 212-683-8960, fax 212-213-1539, http://www.dramatists.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Research could involve the full-length version audio book available on compact disc, Tape, lA Theatre Works Audio Theatre Collection (Venice, California, U.S.A.: L.A. Theatre Works, 2003), ISBN: 1580812805, ISBN 9781580812801, LCCN 2006575540, performed by William R. Mapother (1965-____); Josh Stamberg (____-____); Alison West, Alison (1953-____), broadcast on the live performance play series Play’s the Thing (radio program).
Comment on film version by Laura Clifford, September 24, 2001
“TAPE ---- When Jon (Robert Sean Leonard, "Much Ado About Nothing") returns to his hometown of Lansing, Michigan as a rookie director represented in the town's film festival, he meets up with his old high school buddy Vince (Ethan Hawke, "Snow Falling on Cedars") who's also flown in for the event. Once Jon's arrived at Vince's motel room, pleasantries quickly devolve into character judgements. Mounting tension is escalated when Vince accuses Jon of not only stealing his old girlfriend Amy (Uma Thurman, "The Golden Bowl"), but of raping her. When Vince finally gets Jon to admit the truth, he announce's Amy's imminent arrival, then tells Jon he's captured their entire conversation on "Tape." Adapted from his one act play by Stephen Belber, director Richard Linklater ("Before Sunrise") uses digital video technology to capture an intense character study in real time. This is an actors' piece and the cast of three thrive in its environment. We first meet Vince, a small time drug dealer/volunteer fireman, burning off his manic energy with inter-bed pushups. Jon, a seemingly more well-adjusted young man, is dismayed to learn that Vince has broken up with Lynn, his long time girlfriend, but agrees with her assessment that Vince 'has issues that manifest themselves in violence.' This begins a debate that clearly shows Jon believes Vince is beneath him, an unambitious, immature slacker, even as Jon back-pedals his words. Vince, denying said charges while shooting beers and rolling joints, slowly turns the tables on Jon, making us reevaluate the other character as perhaps having a weaker moral fiber. But "Tape," never letting us rest, soon has us questioning Vince's objectives. When Amy, a local assistant district D.A., arrives on the scene, things become awkward until she's assessed the situation and gains the upper hand. Amy has yet a third take on their high school days before she makes a telephone call that will once again spur character defining actions. Ethan Hawke, an actor who recently has delivered moribund performances, is charged as Vince, at once an overactive adolescent and pothead philosopher. Linklater should remain Hawke's director of choice as he hasn't been this good since "Before Sunrise." Robert Sean Leonard deftly digs a hole of Jon's own making, constantly trying to spin himself as a nice guy while his true nature seeps out between his words. Uma Thurman has less time to flesh out her character, but makes her Amy's flip flop, from vulnerable to victorious, believable although she never attains her costars level of empathy. Belber's clever writing shifts our perceptions constantly throughout the film, while cinematographer Maryse Alberti ("Joe Gould's Secret"), limited to the space of one motel room, keeps the visuals interesting and diverse, only stumbling with the choice of some whiplash pans late in the action. Linklater's direction is tight and he gives us a laugh on our way out with the witty selection of Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" playing over the end credits. "Tape" may be an actors' exercise, but Linklater and his cast make it a workout worth watching. B.”—Review: Tape (2001) - rec.arts.movies.reviews | Google Groups, http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.movies.reviews/, accessed August 25, 2007.
Comment on full-length film version by Dennis Schwartz
“TAPE (director: Richard Linklater; screenwriter: from a play by Stephen Belber/Mr. Belber; cinematographer: Maryse Alberti; editor: Sandra Adair; cast: Ethan Hawke (Vince), Uma Thurman (Amy Randall), Robert Sean Leonard (John Salter); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Alexis Alexanian/John Sloss/Anne Walker-McBay/Gary Winick; Lions Gate Films; 2001) "The actors do justice to this potent and insightful script, filling the screen with explosive energy as they dig into their past shame with their own kind of dynamite." . . . Richard Linklater's (Slacker/Waking Life/Dazed and Confused) edgy chamber drama Tape, is based on the three-character play by Stephen Belber. It's a talky dramatization shot in real-time and photographed with a handheld camcorder by both Linklater and Maryse Alberti, who capture the film's claustrophobic setting in a grainy but intimate manner on digital video. The Rashomon-like theme of who's telling the truth is played into a question of ethics and perceptions, as the filmmaker succinctly points out that objective reality is only subjective. There's also Brenda Lee's telling song at the film's conclusion: "I'm Sorry I Was Such A Fool." Two supposedly close friends from their high school days, Vince (Ethan Hawke) and John Salter (Robert Sean Leonard), who have kept in touch since graduating ten years ago, meet in Vince's motel room in Lansing, Michigan. Vince is a slacker, small time drug dealer, and a volunteer fireman in Oakland (I thought they had a professional fire department), who has come to Lansing to help support his friend on what might be the most important weekend in his life. John is a smug, pretentious, aspiring filmmaker, who shot a film appearing in the Lansing Film Festival. He's hoping this will be his big career film break, and has invited Vince and his girlfriend to attend the one-time screening for a film he has worked on for the last two years. But Vince is alone and informs him that his girlfriend for the last three years has left him because of his violent tendencies and reckless behavior, which upsets John more than it does him. John, in a superior tone, lectures the beer guzzling and still immature Vince who is attired in boxer shorts, and tells him to get his life together--he's no longer a kid at 28. As the sharp conversation between the two becomes more heated, it appears Vince is on a downward spiral and the better dressed and more polished John is heading upward. But it soon becomes apparent that Vince had other reasons for seeing John than what he lets on, as he's still troubled about what happened to the love of his life, his old high school girlfriend Amy Randall (Uma Thurman), who broke up with him and had a crush on John. Vince is trying to get clear in his jealous mind about an incident that happened one night, after he already had broken up with Amy, where John said he had sex with Amy when he was drunk at a party. What strikes him as odd, is that they never saw each other after that fling. Vince believes a date rape occurred and tries to get his friend to tell him exactly what happened. Vince is seething inside because he went out a long time with Amy and they never had sex, even though it was Amy's first relationship and he wanted so much to make love to her. To loosen the stiff John up, Vince induces him to smoke pot. And, after much badgering and questioning of John's version, much like a prosecutor, John states that he coerced her verbally into having sex with him. The manic Vince then gets the awkwardly apologetic filmmaker to say he held her down and raped her. To John's astonishment he gets this confession on tape, which he threatens to give to Amy unless John apologizes to her. Vince also tells him that Amy is working in the town she went to college, Lansing, as an assistant district attorney; and, even though, he hasn't seen her for five years, he has invited her over to the motel. Amy enters the motel room at the film's 50 minute mark, and the three high school friends are confronted with facing themselves now and in their past while stuck in this small and unappealing room. The self-composed Amy and the chagrined John have different reasons and interpretations about what may--or may not--have happened, as the small-minded but crafty Vince massages his own feelings and tries to understand what each of them is saying that satisfies his own point of view. The three actors do a marvelous job of working together and conveying their passions, hurts, and sense of being. They do this despite none of them being particularly sympathetic figures. Linklater's film is much in the same vein as what filmmakers and playwrights Mamet and LaBute are regularly doing, creating intelligent scenarios for adult audiences. The actors do justice to this potent and insightful script, filling the screen with explosive energy as they dig into their past shame with their own kind of dynamite. REVIEWED ON 9/28/2002 GRADE: A- “—Review: Tape (2001) - rec.arts.movies.reviews | Google Groups, http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.movies.reviews/msg/31060302acb02204, accessed August 25, 2007.
date rape, drugs, filmmaking, memory, motive, perception, rape, reunion, truth.