Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Gina Gionfriddo's drama centers on Catherine (Teri Whipple), a famous feminist who has become a mass media superstar for writings on torture porn and reality television. She has returned to her New England town to take care of her mother Alice (Linda Ayes-Frederick) who recent had a heart attack. Gwen (Lauri Smith), an old grad-school roommate, reconnects with her Catherine. Gwen is a homemaker, a grad-school dropout with a couple of kids and a strained marriage to porn-addicted, bizarrely lazy Don (Ryan Hayes), who smokes too much weed. Rounding out this interesting group is Avery (Amanda Farbstein), the stimulating catalyst.
Rapture, Blister, Burn is very talkative, but the writing is sparkling, such as this conversation: (Don: At least your sexual depravity has a little cache to it ... Picking up a guy in a bar ... It's retro. It's cute. Catherine: Why is it retro? Don: You're supposed to do that stuff on Craigslist now. You're out Looking for Mr. Goodbar like it's 1975. I think it's adorable ... Whereas my shit is ... I'm jacking off to a computer while my family watches Toy Story. It's just appalling.) It's interesting talk about modern feminism and expectations of women at home and at work. The playwright also adds to the mix the impact of internet pornography on women. The play's characters span three age groups and they are an extremely vocal bunch. Under Leah S. Abrams' sharp direction the cast handles the script loquaciousness with affirmation.
Teri Whipple is outstanding as the provocateur-professor Catherine. She expertly plays the character with increasing abandon on women's rights. Lauri Smith is splendid as the garrulous Gwen. She gives an impressive performance of a person who gave up her ambitions to raise a family. Amanda Farbstein rocks as Avery, the post-feminist babysitter for Don and Gwen. She is less a fully formed character who believes in stripping because it's "good" for her "emotionally." She delivers many of the gaudiest lines in the drama and represents many modern women. Linda Ayes-Frederick gives a terrific performance as Alice the mother of Catherine. She has the best comic lines with her categorically likable and entertaining portrayal of a loving, affectionate, jovial, non-interfering mother. The lone male, Don, is played imposingly by Ryan Hayes in a delightful performance of the anti-ambitious man who is unsatisfied with his life.
The set by Austin Kottkamp is an excellent living room set stage front and two chairs and tables on each side where the actors sometimes perform. Sound by Ryan Short, costumes by Stephanie Dittbern, and lighting by Maxx Kurzunski are pitch perfect.
Rapture, Blister, Burn runs through December 17, 2016, at The Custom Made Theatre Co., 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-798-2862 or visit www.custommade.org. Coming up next Amy Herzog's Belleville opening January 5 and running thru January 28, 2017.