Monday, September 8, 2014

"Rapture, Blister, Burn" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

On one level, Gina Gionfriddo's "Rapture, Blister, Burn" is a primer on the modern history of feminist philosophy, but more to the point it is a women-bonding story, where three generations of women chart out their places on the continuum of female enlightenment. The show is funny, features some fine acting and snappy one-liners; at the same time it is talky. Act One's setup is long but Act Two delivers.

The two main characters are forty-somethings and appear to be on opposite sides of philosophical issues. Rebecca Schweitzer plays Gwen, mother of two who abandoned her career to be a stay-at-home Mom. Gwen is defensive about her life, recovering from alcoholism while living with Don (Gabriel Marin), a man content to slide through life without thinking too much about it. Meanwhile, Gwen's old graduate school roommate and friend Catherine (Marilee Talkington) shows up in town. Catherine had been Don's girl friend back then, but they broke up when Catherine got her degree and a job in London while Don stayed home. There, he fell for and married Gwen.

Now Catherine has the career as a successful writer and speaker that Gwen wants, while Gwen has the family (and the man) that Catherine wants. Catherine's mother Alice (Lillian Bogovich), has recently suffered a heart attack and this has brought Catherine to the realization that she will someday be all alone.

Let us not forget Avery, the 21-year-old played with passion by Nicole Javier. In many ways the story of the two middle-aged women is told through the younger Avery and older Alice. Avery is energetic and opinionated; Alice has been through it all before. These two understand that life is different than philosophy. Avery and Alice are delights, and for us they carry Gionfriddo's show.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Rapture, Blister, Burn" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE.  The Bangle is for the writing which includes many one-liners, like Don's "Booze and love dupe you into thinking average people are great." Desdemona Chiang's direction keeps things in motion, although there is a lot of prop moving during the scene breaks. The ending is satisfying, if predictable. Women in the audience will relate to the self-analysis to which these women subject themselves; men, on the other hand, may scratch their heads and wonder why.

"Rapture, Blister, Burn"
Aurora Theater
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED Through Oct. 5

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