Sex, Lies, Tape - At The WaldorfSaturday, April 30, 2011
Rebecca and I were shoehorned into a tiny hotel room at the Waldorf on East Hastings with 16 other people. We were sitting on folding chairs against a wall. In front of us was a nondescript hotel room wall, a double bed, a nondescript table lamp and a TV set showing bra ads. A youngish man entered the room wearing long boxer shorts and after perusing a Playboy Magazine he did some tough pushups on the floor. There was a knock on the door and a gentle looking bearded man entered.
This was the beginning of a claustrophobic, intense play, Tape (written by Stephen Belber) and directed by Amiel Gladstone that felt so real that I was soon not even a fly on the wall but part of the action. Perhaps the theme of the play, an amateur firefighter turned professional drug dealer (Daniel Arnold) who meets up with his former high school friend ( played by Matthew Kowalchuk, as a budding avante-garde filmmaker with principles), ten years after who have issues to resolve, may have been a bit too much for my Rebecca. But I don’t think so. After that hour of verbal mayhem, I know that she will some day soon attend some local and very professionally staged musical play and find it wanting. I am glad of that.
The evening began when a cool and quietly beautiful woman with hair down took us (all 18 of us) up to room 102 and sat us down.
The cool and quietly beautiful woman, (Marisa Smith) then appeared, as the third protagonist, somewhere half way during the play with her hair up and dressed like the assistant Crown Council attorney she is supposed to represent. She (Amy) is the unresolved issue between Vince (Daniel Arnold) and Jon (Matthew Kowalchuk). The straight-laced woman revealed to Rebecca's and my shock, a kink in her smart lawyer's outfit, a fondness for a man’s hand about her mouth.
Tape is the kind of play that serves as a constant reminder for me on how far theatre has come in Vancouver. Back in 1975 a theatre experience in Vancouver was no better than what you would get at a terrible high school play. Tape felt immediate, extremely professional, but paradoxically so well acted that I forgot the actors were acting.
Watching the gentle (was he really gentle?) Matthew Kowalchuk, watching the potentially dangerous Daniel Arnold (was he really dangerous?) and watching the graceful but suddenly cold and calculating Marisa Smith (all that) plunged me into any of the stories that I have recently read by Joyce Carol Oates. The only difference is that Oates' gentle Adirondacks, her usual setting had simply been transfered to a semi seedy hotel in Vancouver's East End. The unresolved ambivalence at the end of the play was pure Joyce Carol Oates.
The experience of taking my Rebecca (13) to see this play and after I had introduced her to Max Reimer (the Playhouse Artistic Director who was part of the audience) will be an experience that she will never forget. And yet Rebecca might be right and I might be wrong. I asked her, “What do you think of this? Is this an experience that will never be topped?” Her answer was, “I am not sure. I am young and I have a whole life in front of me.” I silently agreed and felt a melancholy that I might not be around to share it with her.
Tape, an Alley Theatre production in conjunction with the Waldorf Hotel was supposed to run until tomorrow Sunday but it is being extended. For reservations call 604 -671-9776.
YouTube promo, quite wonderful!