By Julianne Mosher
The stage at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus in Selden transforms this week into a basic motel room set in Lansing, Michigan.
From the moment the lights dim, we are brought back to the glory days of three friends from high school who haven’t seen each other in a decade. But instead of a happy reunion, things turn dark, secrets are spilled, and the plot thickens with a conversation that is just as important now as it was nearly 25 years ago – sexual assault.
Tape is a 1999 play written by Stephen Belber, first produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays. In 2001, it became a film, starring Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman.
Directed by Steven Lantz-Gefroh, the three-character ensemble piece is set within the confines of a tawdry motor lodge in Michigan. After 10 years apart, three former friends (and lovers) come together to play out the unresolved drama of their final days in high school.
Intrigued, the audience watches through the one-act play as layers of denial are slowly peeled away. Suspense builds as each character is provoked into revealing his or her true nature and motivation — full of plot twists. Mesmerized, we are drawn into their lives as they choose which cards to play and which cards to hold.
Starring SCCC students Stefan Pallotta (as Vince, a drug dealing volunteer firefighter), George Eli (as Jon, a filmmaker who is the reason the former friends are in the same room), and Brooke Morabito (Amy, the girl in the middle and a local assistant district attorney), the three on stage together collaborate so well that watchers can see, and feel, the emotion in front of them.
Pallotta’s quick witted responses (and stellar dance moves) show promise for his future — he’s graduating this upcoming semester to study acting. The audience deeply empathizes with Morabito, who plays a victim of assault, as she performs her tale of that night and how she overcame it so well that viewers are left speechless. As a graduating senior, as well, she too has a bright future ahead.
Eli’s performance of antagonist of the story is so impressive, it’s hard to dislike his character. This performance of Tape is so good, you’ll forget that you’re sitting inside a college theater.
Lantz-Gefroh said that although the play was written almost three decades ago, the topic is still important today — and that is why people should come see it this weekend.
“We have come no distance with this subject matter in over 30 years,” he said. “[This show] helps people realize the mistakes they’ve made in their lives that they need to fix — if they can.”
Morabito said that playing Amy was a cathartic experience for herself.
“Amy is the character that speaks for all the victims of sexual assault who get to see this play and she enacts revenge,” she explained. “She gets to close the door on what happened that night and what happened in the motel room, and leave it all behind.”
Eli added he was grateful to perform alongside Pallotta and Morabito for an important cause.
“Tape spreads a lot of awareness and shows us that anyone can be a victim or anyone can be an aggressor,” he said.
Tape continues on March 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., and March 19 at 2 p.m. at Theatre 119 in the Islip Arts Building at the Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus, 533 College Road, Selden. Rated R for mature content.
Theater continues at SCCC Selden with William Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors from April 13 to 23.
General admission is $14, veterans and students 16 years of age or younger is $10. Suffolk students with a current ID receive one free ticket. For tickets, call 631-451-4163.
Julianne Mosher is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College and a 2013 graduate of the school.