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BWW Reviews: RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN at Salt Lake Acting Company


Surely a lively debated followed the six blind men's first encounter with an elephant. But it's still no match to the humorous and precise observations from the four women in "Rapture, Blister, Burn."

Avery, Gwen, Catherine, and Alice not only view the hot button topic of feminism through knowing eyes, but each of their attitudes clash from their respective life stations.

Avery, wonderfully played by Stewart Fullerton, is the lynchpin as a challenging and judging young woman. The always excellent Nell Gwynn is Gwen, the woman Avery meets while babysitting her children. Gwen's college buddy, Catherine, is now a media superstar feminist and has arrived to care for her busybody mother Alice after a heart attack. Catherine wants what Gwen has, along with her husband Don, and Gwen longs for what Gwen has.

The performances of Fullerton and Gwynn are singled out because they so deeply enrich the pleasures of "Rapture, Blister, Burn," a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist by Gina Gionfriddo. It's also relishing to see the University of Utah theater student Fullerton stand toe-to-toe with Gwynn.

Tracie Merrill-Wilson, who plays Catherine, and Jeanette Puhich as Alice navigate their roles well and add to the production's luster. Each of the four women are painted lovely and become endearing. Only Robert Scott-Smith disappoints as Don, who significantly weakens his character's voice through his slight portrayal. The character's only function appears to be telling the audience at the onset that his wife "sort of stopped drinking and took up talking."

But truth be told, all of the women are talkative, to the point of a few verbal assaults, and that's the real delight of Salt Lake Acting Company's extremely fine production. Consider these vibrant lines, and then picture them skillfully delivered:

"We can't all be empathetic. Nothing would ever get done."

"First wave feminism: It's like discussing people who thought the earth was flat. But it's not. They were wrong. We moved on."

"If all you do with your life is serve people who leave you, you're f**ked."

Director Adrianne Moore has led the cast to deliver their lines in a free-flowing conversational style so theatergoers anticipate each new line of dialog.

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