‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ explores the pleasure and pain of feminists

Kate Shindle, Nancy E. Carroll, and Shannon Esper toast to life.
Kate Shindle, Nancy E. Carroll, and Shannon Esper toast to life.

Martinis flow freely in the Huntington Theatre Company’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” If you’re a feminist (hell, or just a woman) of a certain age, you might want to imbibe a bit yourself before seeing this tale of two 40something women questioning their own life choices — and coveting the choices the other has made.

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo grants perspectives to two different generations, a look at womanhood that will incite anger, belly laughter or, in the case of this writer, something in between. Four women are forced to shine a light on their own choices, as played out through Gionfriddo’s crisp, witty dialogue and astute observations.

When Catherine, a successful academic, returns to her hometown to care for her ailing mother, Alice, she begins to yearn for the stability of home. She quickly finds it with her old flame, Don, a listless, porn-addicted stoner who’s still married to her college roommate, stay-at-home mom Gwen.

While the duo battle for that “prize,” Gwen’s babysitter Avery and Alice offer their own takes on Betty Friedan’s feminist theories and Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-ERA sentiments in blisteringly funny, soul-baring dialogue.

With the brash self-assuredness of youth, Avery wonders aloud, “You either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad?” Alas, it turns out that her solution — “hooking up exclusively”— doesn’t always work out either.

Peter DuBois’ superb direction makes it look effortless, but it’s clear that some hard work has gone into this fine ensemble production. Shannon Esper (Avery) and Nancy Carroll (Alice) deliver impeccably-timed comedic performances; Kate Shindle (Catherine) displays incredible confidence in her role; Annie McNamara (Gwen) gives heart and credence to her plight; and Timothy John Smith (Don) proves it takes a lot of talent to appear that apathetic.

The resolutions in “Rapture” may appear to be obvious, but the play puts its own spin on the female condition —it’s kind of cool that Avery finds her feminist connection in slasher movies.

If you go

“Rapture, Blister, Burn”
Extended through June 30
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
For more information: Huntington Theater


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