This article first appeared in The Varsity, page 9, on Jan 17, 1991.
by Ray Deonandan
Written by Daniel Brooks, Don McKellar, Tracy Wright. At the Poor Alex Theatre until January 27
It’s amazing the way loud raunchy music can make anything sound cool. If you insert a wailing electric guitar behind a drab monotone newscast, the effect is a convincing simulation of standard coolness.
Red Tape, the Augusta Company’s new play at the Poor Alex theatre, looks and sounds pretty darned cool— due mainly to loud raunchy music. This three-person show is, more or less, the story of a murder of passion. It’s about lust, love, adultery, work, bureaucracy and gun control.
Somewhere in this miasma and juggled chronology of space-time events, a woman has killed a man without apparent reason. Somewhere she has been romantically involved with him. And somewhere her weird husband has bought her a gun.
With simple though powerfully innovative sound and lighting effects. Red Tape is a solid hour of entertainment. Furniture, sex, yoga and general weirdness are abundant throughout; and always there is the peculiar spectre of the power and virulence of personal firearms.
The loud sounds and stage antics project the feel of a music video, which can be both a plus and a minus. It’s a minus for theatre as a whole because, frankly, if I wanted a music video I’d stay home and watch MuchMusic. It’s a plus for the audience because the format makes even the most ordinary and meaningless phrase interesting and strangely compelling.
But there’s one thing in particular that concerns me. Why are local drama-types so obsessed with the yuppie experience? This vision of shooting clubs, office parties and extra-marital affairs is something we see weekly on ThirtySomething. It’s an experience that does not speak to the average individual, and certainly not to the typical audience one would find in the Poor Alex. To tell the truth, it’s starting to get a little boring. For sure, there is something to be found in observing the doings of standard cardboard television characters, but it’s been done so many times that it has ceased to be interesting. If I see another play in which an extramarital affair figures prominently I’ll probably run off to get married just so I can be unfaithful.
Yuppies aside. Red Tape’s most powerful moment is the eventual production of real handguns on stage. It’s an Eerie and nervous moment. The classical “suspension of disbelief is shattered as dangerous looking weapons are brandished before our eyes, reminding us that all of the violence and glorification of guns that we see regularly on television are mere shadows of the power and lethality of the real thing.
Had the guns been wielded by policemen or even trained soldiers, 1 would have felt a lot safer. But somehow seeing real handguns being shown off by stage actors who’ve probably just recently completed a mandatory crash course on firearm safety just didn’t make me feel as safe or as comfortable as I’d have preferred.
But as far as the intrinsics go. Red Tape benefits from strong performances and a good script. It’s difficult to glean an overall message from the affair; and the relevance of certain segments is definitely in question. However, bent comedy, audiovisual power and general coolness make Red Tape an entertaining experience.