Sometimes nostalgia is over-rated; it can be warm and fluffy, or painfully embarrassing. In the case of a thirty-something woman listening to telephone message tapes from her teenage years, it is … well, we don’t really know, because the quality of the tapes is too poor to be quite audible, and teen-talk was just as incomprehensible twenty years ago as it is today.
However, the concept is interesting, and Pamela Bethel does a good job of presenting the material, commenting on the messages as she plays them, and reminiscing about her former life. She had a very liberal upbringing with her father, who was busy working, and absent much of the time. So perhaps some of the frustration and resentment which are the features of normal teenage life are missing here. Pamela has charts which are displayed as needed on the white backdrop. These demonstrate that most of her calls are from friends, some from boyfriends, and a very small proportion from her mother who remarried and left for the UK. We also are treated to some of her outgoing messages, from the creative, to the plain stupid. However, no punches are pulled in this play, and we are not protected from banality, even if we wished at times we might have been.
The absolute best vignette in After the Beep has nothing at all to do with the tapes, but is about the time this precocious teen is caught shoplifting in Shoppers’ Drug Mart. The management insist that she call her father to pick her up, and she has to tell him why. The poignancy of her realization that she has overstepped the line and disappointed her parent, is where we take leave of the shallowness of her life, and face that moment of reality. Suddenly we know that Bethel is a talented actor and probably an intelligent human being. It is a glimpse below the surface idiocy of this play, and definitely worth waiting for.
After the Beep is showing again one more time – on Friday May 19 at 6:30 at Intrepid Theatre. Call 250-590-6291. UNO Fest runs until May 27, with fifteen shows at four venues. 5-show and 3-show passes are available for this challenging festival of one-person shows. This year marks the Festival’s twentieth birthday.