By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Ryan Phillips Fagan
The women are (top left) Brie Zepeda, Janet Roby (bottom left)Toni Press-Coffman, Shanna Brock
If you believe it sounds like fun to think how much the popularity of slasher movies is created by the feminist movement, you need to see “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at Live Theatre Workshop.
Playwright Gina Giondfriddo is having great fun with such pop culture mash-ups, while looking for deep insights into the unbridled popularity of internet porn, as well.
For men who haven't paid much attention to the neo-feminist movement of the past 50 years – or to the female authors writing nonfiction books that jostle each other in the market place, competing to become the biggest best-seller that brings wisdom to the masses – some definite insights into our neo-human condition in the 21st century are provided onstage.
Rhonda Hallquist has her five-member cast of Shanna Brock, Janet Roby, Brie Zepeda, Toni Press-Coffman and the token male Stephen Frankenfield zipping around with some of the snappiest dialog heard in these parts for quite some time.
“Rapture, Blister, Burn” (taken from lyrics by Courtney Love's band Hole) could also be verbs describing the three stages of feminist awareness as they try to reconcile 40 years of idealistic theory with some 200,000 years of actual human experience.
Or to paraphrase Avery (Zepeda), already a 21-year-old cynic, who describes her generation's opinion of women in middle-age: you get married to raise a family and you end up unhappy; or you stay single, have a successful career and you end up unhappy.
Not that Avery has a better plan yet. She just feels generally superior to her elders.
Make no mistake, this play is a comedy for smart people. For anyone who enjoys a nimble conversation about ideas and philosophy. Albeit a philosophy that is still a work in progress.
Credit Hallquist and her cast for maintaining a quick pace that presents with humor the frustrations of Catherine (Brock) the single and successful 42-year-old who can quote chapter and verse of every feminist theorist from the Sixties vs her contemporary Gwen (Janet Roby) who set her own graduate studies aside to marry and support Don (Frankenfield), an underachiever who became a low level dean at “a fourth rate college in New England.”
As the play opens Gwen finds herself a recovering alcoholic who “gave up drinking and took up talking,” while Don devotes his nights to pot smoking and porn.
The set-up has Catherine coming home to care for her mother Alice (a saucy Press-Coffman), then reconnecting with her old friend Don, who gets Catherine a teaching appointment where, by the second act she is teaching a pop culture class with two students – Gwen and Avery (who has been Gwen and Don's babysitter).
Sure it is somewhat artificial, but easy to forgive because the conversations, the ideas, the conflicts and the frustrations are so rich. No matter which side of this fence (and there are more than two sides) is your favorite, you will leave LTW wanting to talk about it some more.
“Rapture, Blister, Burn” continues through June 11, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Plus an additional matinee June 11 (a Saturday) at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $20, discounts available. For details and reservations 520-327-4242 or livetheatreworkshop.org