Stage Review

Rapture, Blister, Burn (2012)

RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN Beth Dixon and Amy Brenneman
Image credit: Carol Rosegg
RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN Beth Dixon and Amy Brenneman
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Opening Date: Jun 12, 2012; Lead Performances: Amy Brenneman, Kellie Overbey and Lee Tergesen; Writer: Gina Gionfriddo; Director: Peter DuBois; Genre: Drama

There's a lot of talk about feminism, the women's movement, and generational gender issues in Rapture, Blister, Burn, Gina Gionfriddo's fascinating new drama running at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons through June 24. But even if you don't know Betty Friedan from Betty Crocker, you won't miss a minute of the emotionally charged debates between Cathy (Private Practice's Amy Brenneman), Gwen (Kellie Overbey), and Avery (Boardwalk Empire's Virginia Kull) — which get even better with the addition of Cathy's mom, Alice (Beth Dixon), and a few straight-up martinis. (Trust me: I'd never heard of famous ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly — let the mocking begin — and if you took a swig each time her name is dropped you'd be hammered halfway through scene two.)

That's not to say Rapture is two hours of didactic dialogue and Ph.D.-level discussions. Cathy is an academic (and author and television pundit) teaching a college seminar, which certainly affords Gionfriddo the opportunity to address topics like the feminine mystique. But more than that, Cathy is a sort of Everywoman: over 40, single, childless, and unhappy. Meanwhile, Gwen is also over 40, married to Cathy's old grad-school boyfriend, Don (Oz's Lee Tergesen), with two kids, and also unhappy. As for happily single 21-year-old Avery, she thinks she has the answers to everything. On having it all: ''If you choose the right career and the right husband, you can afford to outsource the homemaker s---.'' On cheating husbands: ''I think when TVs get stolen, it's usually because the owner left the door open.'' Everything that comes out of her mouth is completely outrageous...and often completely reasonable. And Kull, recently seen at Playwrights in the terrific Assistance, makes a complete feast of the role.

Avery proves a perfect sidekick to Cathy, who thinks she has the answers to everything. (Doesn't she — now that she's hit 40?) And one of her answers includes getting back the man who got away. There's nothing more enjoyable than watching super-smart characters make exceedingly dumb decisions, and seeing beautiful, brilliant Cathy entangled with Internet-porn-addicted pothead Don sets off an almost unbelievable chain of sometimes comic, mostly tragic events. (No spoilers here: It's crystal-clear from the very first scene that these two ex-lovers will become entangled.)

Gionfriddo doesn't let Cathy off easy. She refuses to give her a Hollywood ending, rewarding her with an adopted baby à la Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles. (Again, no spoilers: Gionfriddo said that plainly in a recent New York Times piece discussing her ''inadvertent homage'' to Wasserstein's 1989 feminist-coming-of-age drama.) And Brenneman — a smart, naturally appealing stage actress — refuses to make her a victim. I'll drink a martini to that. A–

(Tickets: TicketCentral.com or 212-279-4200)

Originally posted Jun 12, 2012
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