RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN (Wilma): Feminism, access, and meaning on the stage

Campbell M O'Hare and Krista Apple-Hodge in RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN. Photo by Alexander Iziliaez.
Campbell M O’Hare and Krista Apple-Hodge in RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN. Photo by Alexander Iziliaez.

RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is two things: it is an exploration of a few contemporary feminist questions, particularly surrounding family and fulfillment, and it is a story in which those theories are put to a practical test. Playwright Gina Gionfriddo is attempting to make theory accessible; rather than a textbook, this more resembles someone’s blog, where heady, contested, and politically loaded ideas are given flesh.

The production has a lot going for it. Designer Kristen Robinson fills the Wilma’s large proscenium with a massive white field, effectively providing an abstract space in which characters can move. This also removes them from their contexts to put them on equal ground. The cast is well-chosen, and keeps Gionfriddo’s overly witty, TV-style dialogue and impossibly introspective characters in hand. Campbell M. O’Hare as Avery, who provides a precocious younger generation’s perspective on the issues, is funny and on-point. Krista Apple-Hodge provides a detailed and dynamic view of protagonist Catherine and her existential quandary of meaning and access.

Harry Smith and Krista Apple-Hodge. Photo by Alexander Iziliaez.
Harry Smith and Krista Apple-Hodge. Photo by Alexander Iziliaez.

In the play’s most interesting move, characters attempt a non-traditional relationship: careerist Katherine swaps her New York apartment for stay-at-home-mom Gwen’s husband. In this way, they say, each woman can have what she wants (as second-wave feminism suggested). This is done on an impulse, and Catherine and Gwen are each thrown into an unknown and eventually impossible situation

One cannot help but think that this is a false dichotomy following in the tradition of the Wilma’s Cherokee, which earlier this year provided a similarly short-sighted ultimatum (either continue to work a soul-sucking 9-5 or move into a national park and pretend you are a Native American) and came to similar conclusions.

These plays exist to blast mythologies apart (no, says Cherokee, you cannot simply walk away from your life into the fantasy of pre-technology paradise; no, says RAPTURE: a woman cannot simply have what she wants, despite what second wave feminism said). But they are conservative, middle-class, and dreadfully unimaginative when it comes to conclusions. When fantasy falls apart, where is the reality and how do we keep our souls alive? These American living-room dramas do not know. [The Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St.] October 8-November 8, 2014; wilmatheater.org.


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