Imagine a world where women can have it all, where they can take care of their kids and also have a career in whatever they desire. “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” now on the main stage at the Goodman Theatre, suggests there is no such thing.
Women are either housewives, taking care of their family,or have a career with no kids. There is no middle ground. But what if you could switch lives with someone you envy? Would want to keep that other life forever?
“Rapture,” written by Gina Gionfriddo, is about two middle-aged women who went to college together but later chose very different lives. Gwen (played by Karen Jones Woditsch), is a traditional wife and mother living in the town where the two grew up. Catherine (Jennifer Coombs) is a single writer and teacher of feminist philosophy in New York City. Then there is Avery (Cassidy Slaughter-Mason), Gwen’s wild 21-year-old babysitter whose main concern is to have fun before she gets old and who doesn’t believe in marriage because of its “inequality.”
Gwen and Catherine envy each other’s lives and decide to trade, which is fine with Gwen’s husband Don (Mark Montgomery) – for a little while. As in most stories, in the end people are not always happy when they get what they thought they wanted.
It doesn’t seem possible at first for only five characters to create a satisfyingly whole, exciting and engaging play, but these actors pull it off. The theme of feminism brings liveliness to the stage and provides many opportunities for humor and witty banter. The play really is quite funny. But it also makes viewers think about such weighty issues as equality, respect and women’s role in society. And its learned lessons stick with you long after you leave the theater. I was left chewing on these eternal questions. Can women have it all? Do they have to be stereotypical housewives? Can they be happy as wives and mothers? If they choose to have a career, are they condemned to be forever alone and unhappy? Throughout the play different perspectives are shown.
One particularly powerful scene is when Catherine and Don are in the backyard of Catherine’s mother, Alice (Mary Ann Thebus). They talk about their past lives and how they miss college, when they were a couple. During this touching scene you can feel the romance in the air with the flirting and corny jokes. The electricity is heightened by Jennifer Schriever’s creative lighting.
The characters were all funny, but perhaps the funniest lines are delivered by Alice, who appears most conventional but surprises with her insight and her ability to defuse a heated argument with a tray of martinis.