Rapture Blister Burn by Gina Gionfriddo, is a relatively new play that is currently being produced by Southwest Theatre Productions at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre’s smaller black-box space. The Play centers on Catherine and Gwen who chose totally opposite paths after Grad school. Catherine built a career as a feminist, and moral compass type academic, while Gwen became the ideal wife and mother and never finished her masters. Now years later, both are unfulfilled and jaded in their individual choices and lives, and each woman covets the other’s life while tossing Don (Gwen’s husband and Catherine’s Ex-Boyfriend) around like a mutually desired toy. This play is a thrill to watch, think about and discuss later.
The biggest take away from this production is the intense look at modern day feminism and the media, factors, and players that have shaped and changed feminism as we know it. There are valid arguments on each side and both are show in all their fearful glory in this play. Director Fritz Ketchum has done a spectacular job in creating a play with heart, intrigue and an uncompromising rawness that leaves the audience thinking as well as laughing.
Ketchum’s real gift to this production is her casting, which is superb! Suzanne Balling as Catherine is detailed, nuanced and steadfast everything this character should be. Balling shows a woman who is torn between the life she has, the life she wanted, and the hurtful truth that she doesn’t really know what she wants. Add to that the talents of Mary Kennelly in the role of Alice Catherin’s Mother and you have dynamic duo of skill, wit, and responsiveness that is often lacking in shows like this. Kennelly’s gift to this show is her characters realism, she is everyone’s mother in 2014. While Alice still holds on to her generations “old fashion” ideals Kenelly allows Alice to have an open-mindedness that puts not only the audience at ease but adds a needed perspective on the situation. On the other side of the coin is Kristin Chiles who plays Catherine’s “Best Frienemy” Gwen, Chiles gives a performance that every mother can relate to. Chiles dilemma and inner-debate over how to be a good mother, raise her children, let them go and be a real person outside of all that is seem live and in techni-color. Chile shows a woman with more thoughts, battles and confusion going in inside than most people have in a lifetime and it all come bubbling out like a pot of pasta boiling over, it’s messy, it’s hot, and it’s so important to this play. The final pieces to this ensemble while not roles that the show revolves around are characters who without them there would be no show. Scott Galbreath as Don the husband of Gwen and the Ex-boyfriend of Catherine is a force to be reckoned with. Galbreath has the gentleness of a lamb and the fierceness of a tiger. While this show is about Feminism and these two women’s lack of contentment Galbreath as Don shows us a man who is just as torn about his own desires, shames, weaknesses and shortcomings. Adding fuel to the fire is Adrienne Brown as Avery, the student, babysitter, and friend that comes into the mix and keeps the spirals colliding and yet not exploding all at the same time. Brown’s performance of a modern young woman is spot on, there is nothing over played and yet she adds the moments of humor that help to cut the tension. Brown does a fantastic job of being able to turn a phrase without coming across too cliché’ in her delivery.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this production, they are mostly due to the confines of the performance space, there is little to no lighting design because the circuits can’t handle that many lights at one time, the stage feels craped because it is but those are things beyond the director, producer and casts control. There is one note however I feel falls back on the director, there are many moments where the blocking of the actor hinders the cast from performing at their full potential. I was sitting on the 3rd row (which is also the last row) and I could not see the actors at many times in the show, they were either sitting too low or were too clustered to one another for a clear line of site. I point this out only to help in the future as I wish this team the best of luck in their endeavors.
I give this show a 4.5 out of 5 stars! The acting is superb, the material timely, and the direction is solid. Take the time to see this show while you can! Rapture Blister Burn runs through January 31, 2015. For more information and tickets go to http://raptureblisterburn.brownpapertickets.com/