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March 5 2009 12:00 AM

LCC black box show contemporary theater at its best

What happens in Las Vegas may stay in Las Vegas, but what happens in high school may stay around and haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Stephen Belber’s “Tape,” now being staged as a Lansing Community College Black Box production, is a mini high-school reunion of three individuals, now 28 years old, which focuses on the traumatic event that defined their last night of high school.

The entire 70-minute play takes place in a seedy Lansing motel room, where Vince, played by J.C. Kibbey, holds court, first with his former best buddy and then with his high school girlfriend, confronting each of them in turn with the events and circumstances of that fateful night.

Kibbey is angry and intense as Vince, a volunteer firefighter and multidrug dealer whose emotions spill out all over the stage and seem all the more real due to the intimate setting. Front row seating is but an exhale away from the action, and those choosing to sit there would be well advised to duck the beer cans chucked across the stage.

Sharing the stage with Kibbey for most of the play is David G.B. Brown in the role of Jon, who is back home to promote his movie at the local film festival. Jon is condescendingly cool; he criticizes Vince for not growing up, until Vince’s persistent verbal attacks begin to scratch the surface of his carefully constructed professional faade.

We soon learn that Vince believes Jon to have date-raped Vince’s high school girlfriend. After eventually acknowledging the possibility that he forced the girlfriend to have sex, Jon realizes, much to his chagrin, that Vince has taped the “confession.”

Enter the high-school girlfriend, Amy, now a prosecuting attorney for the county. Natasha M. DeSenna Fernandes plays it crisp and, despite the 40-minute head- start given to the male characters, manages to show up on stage up-to-speed and ready to engage. Fernandes combines a steely spine with subtle vulnerability that ultimately puts both men in their place for resurrecting a memory obviously more harrowing for her than either of them.

Director Lorijean Nichols gets strong, emotional performances from all three actors.

“Tape” is contemporary American theater at its best, surfacing a sexual issue that easily gets swept under the rug and buried in the depths of one’s psyche. This show reminds us of the trauma we all carry from high school, things and events that go bump in the night, turning over again and again, as we try to resolve them in the darkness of our semi-conscious minds.


Feb. 28 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday LCC Black Box, Gannon Building,
411 N. Grand Ave., Lansing $5/$10 (517) 483-1488 www.lcc.edu/hpa/events

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