Review: ‘Stone Tape Party’ at Nu Sass Productions

It was clear when I walked into the intimate theatre that the party had already started at this 2014 Capital Fringe Festival ‘Best Comedy and Best Overall Show.’ Music was blasting, drinks were flowing, and women were bopping around on stage. It was even more fun when the cast members bantered with the audience, suggested we go to the “Corner Store” to pick up brewskis, and invited us to the party. I earned some Mardi Gras beads (won’t tell you how!) and was entertained watching the squares squirm while girls danced on the coffee table before the show started.

The cast of 'Stone Tape Party.' Photo by Paul Gllis Photography.
The cast of ‘Stone Tape Party.’ Photo by Paul Gllis Photography.

Stone Tape Party is a coming of age dramedy about a group of friends who are at a standstill in their lives. They drink and do drugs in excess to remember and to forget, and they sleep with whom they want. They are loyal to each other, don’t work much, and don’t seem to dream of something bigger and beyond themselves. However, Dusty, played by Briana Manente, wants to pack up, move across the country, and leave this all behind. But Aedan (played with chipper intensity by Ariana Almajan), the ghost of their former roommate and her best friend, has different plans for Dusty. What follows is madness, mayhem, warmth, reflection, and acceptance.

Manente brings a fiery energy to the multi-faceted Dusty. She’s wound so tight at one point you think she may burst into flames, and at other times, she is tender and sincere. It’s a pleasure to watch Manente sink into her character throughout the play. My favorite of the night, however, was Renana Fox’s Basie. She is totally comfortable in Basie’s sexy skin and costumes, and her first act monologue is a hoot. Aubri O’Connor as cokehead Rich is boisterous and weirdly fun. Really, the whole cast including Jill Tighe, Morgan Meadows, and Casey Leffue, is great.

While the chemistry amongst the actors seems natural and the quick-fire banter is well timed, there are some points where Playwright Danny Rovin’s dialogue is sluggish and confusing. In some instances, this was a little tiring; it did keep me on my toes, though!. Where the dialogue isn’t slow though, is in the honest portrayal of the bonds of sisterhood. Those moments are touching, funny, and accurately TMI. I also would like to have seen a bit more backstory to the characters, as they all seemed so dynamic at face value–show me more!

The cast of 'Stone Tape Party.' Photo by Justin Schneider.
The cast of ‘Stone Tape Party.’ Photo by Justin Schneider.

The production is solid with cool lighting effects (a strobe! dreamy colors!) and fine direction by Angela Kay Pirko. I loved the set, a picture perfect group home family room (ah, the perennial twinkle lights) littered with records, pillows, beer cans, and liquor bottles. It is a good metaphor for the limbo these women were living in, stuck between youth and adulthood, messy lives and moving on. Bonus points for great party music that bookend scenes and echo the characters’ emotions (and got me wiggling in my seat), and costumes that sum up their characters.

If you’re able to make it out in the blizzard this weekend, grab a beer and check out Nu Sass’s great production of Stone Tape Party at Atlas Performing Arts Center!

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.

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Stone Tape Party plays through February 7, 2016 at Nu Sass Productions performing at Atlas Performing Arts Center -133 H Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.

LINKS:
Take One Shot for the Pain: The Characters of ‘Stone Tape Party’ as Cocktails By Angela Pirko.

Anne Tsang’s review of Stone Tape Party at The 2014 Capital Fringe Festival.

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