BWW Reviews: RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is Not Just for Feminists
The career versus marriage debate has been going on ever since women's lib first appeared on the scene and made it an issue. And if you think there can be nothing new to be said on the subject, then RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN, by Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright, Gina Gionfriddo, is sure to make you think again.
Now playing at Aux Dog Theatre, in Nob Hill, RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is a fast-paced wild ride through the pros and cons of feminism, as seen through the eyes of four engaging female characters from three different generations.
Catherine, a successful academic, pundit and writer (crisply played by Sheridan Johnson) returns to her small college home town to take care of her mother, who is recovering from a heart attack, But Catherine's glamorous New York life is not what it seems and loneliness, spurred on by alcohol, prompts her to reconnect with her old college room-mate, Gwen (Jessica Osbourne) whom she hasn't seen for over a decade.
Gwen is now married to Don (Ryan Montenery) Catherine's ex boyfriend from their college days. With a couple of kids to complete the picture, they represent the life Catherine could have chosen, but didn't. Now in her mid-40s and still single, she is going through a serious 'What if . . . ' mid-life crisis.
But Gwen's life is not what it appears to be either, as Catherine discovers when she takes a job at the local university (where Don is a disciplinary dean) teaching a summer course titled, 'The Fall of American Civilization.' The only people to enroll are, conveniently, Gwen and her one-time baby sitter, Avery (Sara Rosenthal) a 21 year-old college dropout.
With only two students, Catherine decides to teach the course in her mother's house, where she is staying. This arrangement gives her mother, Alice (Gail Gillock Spidle) the opportunity to join in, adding her generation's perspective to the proceedings, together with a liberal supply of dry martinis.
Gionfriddo cleverly uses the course Catherine is teaching as the vehicle for deep and spirited conversations about gender roles, career issues, men, sex, marriage and the challenges faced by women attempting to combine a successful career with a satisfying personal life. The dialogue is smart, fast-paced and witty and the multi-generational perspectives bring in references to Freud, Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly, among others. Many of the best lines in the play are given to world weary, cynical, young Avery, including a hilarious comparison between internet porn and Google maps.
It soon becomes apparent that Gwen's marriage is unraveling fast, beset with money issues and a husband who has now traded his younger ambitions for an addiction to pot and pornography. Nevertheless, anxious to compensate for what they both missed out on and believing that the grass is greener... Catherine and Gwen decide to trade lives.
A lingering attraction between Catherine and her lost love, adds the final touch, as Don also becomes part of the swap. Everyone involved ends up learning some major life lessons, as well as discovering new truths about who they really are and what they really want from life.
RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is an unconventional play, intellectually stimulating, thoughtful and funny all at the same time. Well acted, skillfully directed by Kristine Holtvedt and thoroughly engaging, it's a show that will appeal to both sexes and provide material for interesting conversations long after the curtain comes down. Performances run through March 9.
Picture courtesy of Russell Maynor