Directed by Kimberly Senior
At the Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Feminist debate clouds relationship drama
The characters and situations in Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn ring hollow and the characters come off as caricatures of 21st Century women. We meet Gwen Harper (Karen Janes Woditsch), a housewife and former grad student with her underachieving husband Don (Mark L. Montgomery). They live a boringly mundane lives with two children. When they get a call from a woman who went to grad school with both thirteen years ago, old flames are rekindled. Catherine Croll (Jennifer Coombs) is a successful single feminist writer/educator who decided to move back to New England to care for her mother who suffered a heart attack.
Playwright Gina Gionfriddo has concocted a play designed to be a comedy of manners with a feminist edge, but it plays out as a shallow drama to facilitate Gionfriddo’s diatribe on the changes in feminist beliefs in the 21st Century. Add Catherine’s mother Alice (Mary Ann Thebus) as the voice of the per-feminist generation and the college student Avery (Cassidy Slaughter-Mason), the foul-mouthed youngster with much wisdom, and this work stretches credulity. It seems that the two 40somethings each are so dissatisfied with their lives that they agree to change places. Really? Gwen wants to move to NYC with her show tune loving teenage son and Catherine wants to settle down with a lover – Don while caring for her mother. It seems that the grass is greener on the other side of the street.
Filled with feminist debates and unrealistic plot situations, Rapture, Blister, Burn plays out as a “woman’s night out play” that depicts men through the weakling Don as inferior. But my main concern with this play is the lack of emotional depth and the lack of empathetic characters. These folks come off as pawns in Gionfriddo’ thinly disguised debate. I wonder why a major regional theatre company like the Goodman Theatre would mount such a thin, bland, and shallow play?
Jennifer Coombs and Cassidy Slaughter-Mason gave yeomen performances as they tried to make something with the weak script. Women will enjoy the feminist debate and the plays has its funny moments but men will not relate much to it.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 26, 2015
For more info checkout the Rapture, Blister, Burn page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Goodman Theatre, 170N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, call 312-443-3825, www.goodmantheatre.org, tickets $28 – $81, Wed & Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm Sundays at 2 & 7:30pm, Thurs. & Sat at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through February 22, 2015