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Theatre Review: Rapture, Blister, Burn

Charr Crail

Sam Misner & Megan Pearl Smith in Capital Stage's production "Rapture, Blister, Burn."

Charr Crail

The most memorable scene in this play features a pithy discussion about how life has been transformed for American women.

Catherine is a prominent academic and a bestselling author who gets into a conversation with hip college student Avery about feminist pioneer Betty Friedan.

Catherine: What was revolutionary about Friedan was her assertion that all women do not fit one mold.

Avery: Right, but, I’m sorry, part of her argument is about how boring being a housewife is if you have a functioning brain.

Catherine: That is in there, but I think the salient point is choice.

Avery: You aren’t married and you don’t have children.

Score one for the perceptive girl – Professor Catherine does wish she’d taken the time to have a husband and a kid. But then we hear from Gwen, Catherine’s college friend, who married Don, a guy who dated Catherine back in the day. And Gwen blurts out something she’s been suppressing for a long time.

Gwen: I was a huge drunk when I hooked up with Don. Don was Katherine’s boyfriend, and I stole him.

Avery: Nice!

Gwen: I know! Don is always disputing that I had an alcohol problem. But look what I did. You wished you had a family… I wish that I had finished school."

The soul-baring doesn’t stop there. Gwen describes how Don – an inspired prince of poetry in college, has turned into an aimless middle-aged academic administrator with a weakness for drink. The college student sizes up Don succinctly.

Avery: I got sent to Don because I partied too hard and got put on academic probation. He read me a William Blake poem about excess being the road to enlightenment.

Gwen: That’s exactly it!

This riotous conversation continues as four women weigh in regarding sex, marriage, and careers. It’s as if George Bernard Shaw, who wrote great scripts invoking social issues a century ago, had been reborn as a contemporary female dramatist.

Then the play morphs into physical comedy, with the most humorous seduction scene involving 40-somethings I’ve witnessed in years. This is a remarkable production -- beautifully cast, and smartly paced. And there are hilarious reversals during the second half, as the characters realize – much to their chagrin --  the grass isn’t really greener on the other side of the fence. 


Madilyn Cooper, Phoebe Moyer, Megan Pearl Smith, & Kelley Ogden in Capital Stage's production "Rapture, Blister, Burn." / photo credit: Charr Crail

"Rapture, Blister, Burn" continues at Capital Stage in Sacramento through April 12th.  

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Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio