Produced by: City Lights Theatrer Company
Directed by: Virginia Drake
Featuring: Kristin Brownstone, Lillian Bogovich, Ivette Deltoro, Deb Anderson, Eric Gandolfi
Running time: 140 minutes, one intermission
When: May 18 through June 18, 2017
Where: City Lights, 529 South Second Street, San Jose, California
Tickets: $19-$42 [discounts available for seniors (55+), students/educators, and groups (10+)]; visit cltc.org or call 408-295-4200
for 'Rapture, Blister, Burn'
is delivered with panache by fine cast
"Rapture, Blister, Burn," by Gina Gionfriddo, is an excellent play that reaches a fairly predictable end by traveling a fascinating path lit constantly by wit and wisdom.
The jokes are great, and numerous.
City Lights Theater Company in San Jose has staged a fine production of the play on an excellent set by Ron Gasparinetti and populated by five very good to excellent actors, who play Gionfriddo's script like the symphony it is.
"I knew this wouldn't be weird," says middle-aged, stay-at-home mom Gwen, to open the play. He husband, Don, answers, "It's weird Gwen. Just embrace it."
What's weird is having Don's old girlfriend, Catherine Croll, famous writer, over for drinks before going to dinner. Catherine had gone to Europe for some academic program; Don had missed that chance, stayed home, and hooked up with Gwen, who became his wife and the mother of his children.
Now Catherine is back, after a drunken phone call she'd made to them, the details of which escape her. (But are slowly divulged to us over the course of the play.) "I'm not a black-out drunk," she says. But.
Dinner plans fall apart when the babysitter, Avery, shows up with a black eye, and Gwen isn't willing to let such an apparent rowdy stay alone with the two children of Gwen and Don.
We meet Avery, who is young, then we meet Catherine's mother, Alice, who is much older, and before long we have a multi-generational exploration of feminism, partially driven by Gwen and Catherine's jealousy of each other.
Who's had the better life? Gwen, raising two children and keeping Don on some kind of semi-successful career path, or Catherine, who's written books about feminism and who appears occasionally on TV as an expert panelist, but who has no regular lover?
A fine cast, directed by Virginia Drake, brings this very human story to life. Ivette Deltoro is a force of nature and a Greek chorus immediately as Avery, the 21-year-old budding film producer and sometimes baby sitter and college student.
Eric Gandolfi is organically real as Don, a college dean whose home life has deteriorated amid a loss of sexual interest from Gwen, and his smoking pot and watching porn. Gandolfi is excellent, and has a very twisted but important character arc, and he carries the audience safely on his back through that entire experience. He does a lot with very subtle bits of action. Sad eyes, happy eyes, stoned but intelligent eyes.
Kristin Brownstone is a striking, blue-eyed blonde beauty as Catherine, who still loves Don, all these years later, and leaps at the chance to maybe get him back.
Deb Anderson has very complicated places to go, to carry the audience, as Don's wife Gwen. She has plenty of words to deliver, but brings even more through her performance.
Lillian Bogovich is excellent and charming as Alice, mother of Catherine, who brings the wisdom of Dr. Phil to bear in the ongoing arguments about Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly.
There's a lot at work here: Generational differences, philosophical arguments, jealousy over which woman has had the more fulfilled life.
Many, many very funny lines that both earn laughs and advance character and plot. Maybe my favorite is when Gwen and her son go to New York, and she sees him get interested in a girl when she'd assumed he was gay: "But he sings show tunes!" she says.
The set by Ron Gasparinetti is excellent, looking very real and lived in. A comfy living room, a couple of backyard patios. Hats off to properties designer Christina Sturken, not only for the books, martini glasses and other middle class appointments, but for the dusty, weathered Weber grill. Nick Kumamoto's lighting was very good at establishing place.
Jane Lambert's costumes are excellent. Gwen's clothes are pretty enough, but they establish her as a suburban mother. Catherine's costumes show her as a mature, sexy urbanite. Avery is clad as a college-age woman who is willing to challenge the world and who is confident about her sexuality.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org