“I want a flawed, tired marriage to fall back on.”
Oh, the sweet, lazy comfort of mediocrity. Real happiness and accomplishment might require effort and risk and change. Man, that sounds like work.
Gina Gionfriddo’s excellent play, “Rapture, Blister, Burn” offers loads of trenchant ideas and arguments about the aspirations of women and men trying to fulfill themselves. Yet, as the dust settles, the denizens of Gionfriddo’s universe appear as uncertain as they ever were. Kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Twenty Percent Theatre is staging this smart and provocative script at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, and it deserves to be seen.
Gionfriddo is biting in her wit, yet generous with her characters — flawed as they are. The feminism she explores in this play makes its own rules and discoveries, recognizing the mileposts of history yet not at all a prisoner to orthodoxy. She seems interested in probing unhappiness among modern women with an honest and painful inquiry, rather than prescribing pat solutions.
The work is keenly aware of distinct points of view.
Is this Catherine’s play? Renee Werbowsky portrays this accomplished author who ambitiously rose from grad school to celebrity. Twenty years later she has limped back home, regretting her decision never to marry and have a family.
Or perhaps, the argument belongs to Avery (Rachel Finch), jaded in youth and well on her way to cynicism. Ah, but it might be Gwen, whose palpitating psyche, fragile self-image and fear of the outside world define Kelli Gorr’s performance.
Gwen’s husband, Don (Randall J. Funk), and Catherine’s mother, Alice (Christine Sweet), are more objects than subjects. Don, who lost his ambition long ago, is a reclamation project for Catherine (his former paramour). Alice provides Catherine an ostensible excuse for hiding out at home (she’s helping mom, who is recovering from a heart attack).
Director Anya Kremenetsky’s production demonstrates a clear understanding of Gionfriddo’s intellectual arguments. Less successful is the attempt to animate a talky script that can occasionally sound like a textbook. I’ve never been a fan of people jumping up from the couch to wander around the room while they talk — even though I understand the director’s impulse to get some movement.
That, however, is the nature of Gionfriddo’s play, and the stasis is worth the effort because the ideas are sharp, clever, wise. Her characters are funny and sympathetic and the tone is pitched just right. “Rapture, Blister, Burn” is another reason to trust Twenty Percent’s track record as a company worth paying attention to.