Review by Norah Pendergast
Youthful desire for originality is something that Club Red Productions brings to the Charlottetown theatre scene. Co-founders Jenna MacMillan and Willie Beck seek scripts with intense subject matter, and “existential stuff” that has not yet been presented on an Island stage. Joe Apart, their second production, by local playwright Michael Walker, dealt with the issue of suicide. In Tape, a psychodrama written by Stephen Belber, characters deal with issues such as rape, drug addiction, and perception. Their fourth effort, Tape, directed by MacMillan and produced by Beck, ran in August at the Arts Guild. It was provocative, mature and captivating.
The play’s three characters, Amy, (Jenna MacMillian), Jon (Ben Rayner) and Vince (Chris Doiron) are reunited six years after their high school graduation and a party which ended with a sexual assault. As the audience becomes familiar with the characters and the main conflict, the dialogue demonstrates how ego can influence one’s perception, especially in hindsight. The character’s opinions provide a filter lens from behind which they view reality.
Tape is superbly acted by Doiron, Rayner, and MacMillian. Chris Doiron plays Vince, a potentially violent coke addict who, as he gets older, is losing control of his life. Six years after high school enough time has elapsed for the characters to reflect on each other’s real world accomplishments. To the audience Vince is a classic druggy loser, but soon he is replaced in his villain role by Jon, a documentary film maker who had formerly held the moral high ground. The ironic twist in the plot proves how selectively people present themselves. The actors’ youth and great skill increase the entertainment value of this show.
Vince’s coke addiction is like a prop, always visible behind the main action. His volatile personality, and half-clothed, sculpted physique, are key elements creating the spell-binding effect of the play. Sober and flustered, Jon counters Vince well, as he is urged to measure his maturity and apologize to Amy. Tape illustrates that actions guised as benevolent are often self-serving.
Willie and Jenna are addicted to the feeling of accomplishment which follows the step-by-step process of producing and directing plays. And Charlottetown is lucky that the Club Red prefers a familiar audience rather than seeking greater exposure in the Toronto or Montreal theatre scenes. Viewing Tape was a thoroughly satisfying experience.