Rapture, Blister, Burn is a show as intriguing as its title. Steeped in wit, quip, and honesty the show is a lesson in feminist history and an exploration of what it means to be a woman today. Rapture raises crucial questions. While the topic of many classic plays seems to be about manhood, this one is about womanhood. It speaks to those intricate, complicated parts that come with the gender. The audience is made to think long and hard about ‘the way things are’ for women, and then think harder; wondering ‘is there another way’? And while the show is about women, it’s no tune-out or turn-off for men either.
The characters are real and three-dimensional, each one dealing with an inevitable, difficult facet of life. As their problems are laid out scene by scene, so too is advice applicable to women of every age. The audience finds itself nodding along with the wisdoms debated onstage.
Catherine (Jennifer Coombs) is an extremely successful author, intellectual, and feminist. Her two college friends married years ago, back in graduate school. Gwen (Karen Woditsch) is now a fulltime housewife to Don (Mark Montgomery), an academic-turned-bum. When Catherine comes in town and begins to teach a small course on the history of feminism, the audience discovers that Don and Catherine had been together years ago, and that flame was never quite snuffed.
The weekly classes on feminism become a staging ground for conversations about love, life, and fulfillment. There are two pupils: Gwen the housewife and Avery, (Cassidy Slaughter-Mason) an angsty, sex-savvy twenty year old. Catherine’s elderly and hilarious mother (Mary Ann Thebus) pops in on the conversation from time to time, bearing martinis.
The women discuss everything from sex to friendship to success to love to fulfillment. The script is natural and smart. Each character brings a different perspective to the table, each woman a proxy for a different wave and branch of feminism.
Their discussions are wide and edgy: Is prostitution and stripping sexually liberating or sexually oppressive to women? What does porn say about women? Is homemaking a 1950s cliché or a fulfilling way to spend your life? Should men feel emasculated by a woman’s success? Can a career and a family be balanced, and does a woman have to have one, the other, or both? Rapture unabashedly tackles these issues head on and brings the audience along for the debate.
Gender politics are an ocean, deep and wide. Feminist schools of thought swim by while gender roles seem to form an impenetrable anchor. Rapture, Blister, Burn addresses all of it, without fear of the risqué or perverted. Nothing is off limits in Gina Gionfriddo’s writing, nothing is left untouched. Sexual fetishes are brought up more than once, alongside fearless discussion about porn. The dialogue is fast paced and complex, and challenges the audience to keep up just enough to make it fun.
Yet, the show remains unpretentious. Though heavy with references to literary culture, the easy and authentic acting counters any sense of haughtiness that might peek through from the script. The setting also pleasantly counters the high-minded conversation. With three different set pieces, two suburban back porches and a living room, there is no room for pretentiousness.
By no means is Rapture exclusive to one sex or the other, despite the fuchsia Venus symbol on the posters. Husbands, bachelors, geezers, and young men alike will light up just as brightly as women to this shocking, risqué, and unbelievably smart show. Full of perspective, wit, and insight, Rapture sparks conversation on a smorgasbord of topics – particularly the ones that need to be talked about. The show isn’t just entertaining - it’s enlightening. Rapture is a social centerpiece for the ages. So when you go to see the show, be sure to bring along a loved one. When the lights fall and the final glasses are raised in a toast, you’re going to want someone to talk to.