Helluva Night: No Exit and Tape

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Through Aug. 15. $25 per show, $40 double bill; 621-8277 or www.helluvanightsf.com.
Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa (at Harrison), S.F.

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This is one lopsided double bill. Expression Productions' "Helluva Night" offers two plays that have almost nothing in common in treatment or tone; the only vague similarity is that each offers a vision of something like hell, where remorse is pretty much meaningless. Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit is the better-known of the two, but here it suffers from broad performances and sluggish pacing. Avoid it. Stephen Belber's Tape, however, is gripping stuff. Set in a grimy Motel 6 in Lansing, Michigan, the play concerns a burnt-out drug dealer (Tim Meehan) who secretly records his friend (Don Keenan) confessing to date rape, then calls up the victim (Melissa O'Keefe) for an impromptu reunion. Tense, funny, and unpredictable, the play benefits from a pair of beautifully realized performances. Meehan is hilarious and a little heartbreaking as a stoner out of his depth; O'Keefe is even better, the sort of actress who can command attention with a smirk. They're well served by a clever, insightful script that packs a fair number of reversals within its 60-minute running time. That may not qualify as a "helluva night," but at least it's one hell of a one-act.

 
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