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Review: Motel-staged 'Tape' is worth checking into

Join the actors in Room 28 at the Western Plaza for this up close and personal take on Stephen Belber's cult drama.

June 25, 2012|By Charlotte Stoudt, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • John Pick as Vince, JB Waterman as Jon, and Kate Brown as Amy in "Tape," a play in a motel room.
John Pick as Vince, JB Waterman as Jon, and Kate Brown as Amy in "Tape,"…

Sex, drugs and a cheap motel for $15 an hour: Who says L.A. doesn't know anything about culture?

The Smith & Martin Company and needtheater have taken the stage directions of "Tape" seriously and staged Stephen Belber's cult three-hander in a room at the Western Plaza Motel on Wilton Place in Los Angeles, just below Santa Monica Boulevard.

Enter Room 28 with a handful of other intrepid audience members and park yourself anywhere: On the beer-can-strewn rug or a lovely bedspread whose color spectrum resembles the curried vegetable dal at a Whole Foods hot buffet.

The guy pacing in his underwear is Vince (John Pick), volunteer firefighter and affable drug dealer, stoked to hang with high school buddy Jon (JB Waterman), in town to show his thoughtful independent film. After a few tokes, Vince will inform Jon they have some unfinished high school business (who doesn't?) involving a classmate, Amy (Kate Brown), whom they both dated. But only one of them slept with her.

Under Ian Forester's admirably low-key direction, the performances occasionally become too subdued — this is theater, not CCTV — but Pick and Waterman feel credible as old friends, and Brown has a stillness that heightens the stakes at the right moments.

This "Tape" plays better as behavioral study than psychological thriller, and there's a certain absorbing appeal to watching an actor exist in character only inches away. Need a better view? Get up and move, the cast doesn't mind.

If you are a collector of site-specific shows or have never seen "Tape," this is your chance to enjoy a dirty little adventure with free parking.

Meet you by the ice machine.

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