The last time I reviewed a Huntington Theatre production, it was M for miserable. The current play is T for terrific. Run, do not walk, to see Rapture, Blister, Burn, the Huntington Theatre production at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End through June 22. It’s a fresh exploration of the centuries-old issue of male/female relationships and a smart, funny look at life’s “what might have beens.” The writing by Gina Gionfriddo is outstanding. Even while keeping you aware that profound and often contradictory truths are being minutely dissected, Gionfriddo keeps the audience laughing. Her use of language is masterful and pleasurable. Director Peter DuBois is totally in tune with Gionfriddo.
Rapture, Blister, Burn explores the shifting roles of women and throws in the perspectives of everyone from Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), Betty Friedan (1963) and even Phyllis Schlafly (1977) and Dr. Phil. But the play is anything but a feminist screed. Catherine Croll, played by Kate Shindle, the woman who chooses career over family, reaches the pinnacle and realizes she wishes she had a family, especially when facing the looming death of her mother and the loneliness of an old age lived alone. Her aging mother, wonderfully played by Nancy E. Carroll, was my mother – ( a Wellesley College chemistry major in the 1930’s fired by the Dupont Corporation because she was engaged to be married) – funny, resigned, eager for her daughter to have it all.
Catherine’s former roommate, Gwen Harper, ably played by Annie McNamara, had stolen Catherine’s boyfriend from her and married him and had two children but now, anticipating an empty nest, regrets having chosen to give up her career to be a wife. Her husband, Don Harper, played convincingly by Timothy John Smith, is dean of a liberal arts college but hardly a catch. He’s a pothead, addicted to porn, lacking ambition and energy. I mean, who’d want to be married to him? The play will let you know that as well.
The younger generation is represented by Catherine’s student Avery Willard, played artfully by Shannon Esper, is astonished by the ruts the others are in and starts out thinking she has all the answers. She is loath to accept the message that “women are screwed either way……either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or have a family and wind up lonely and sad.” What Gionfriddo doesn’t provide her is a model of a relationship between two married professionals with kids who have figured out the give-and-take, the ebb and flow, the way to meet each other’s needs and their own as well, optimally while not messing up their kids lives any more than is absolutely necessary.
Gionfriddo, if you’re out there, will you join us for a drink so we can take the discussion to the next level?
I welcome your comments in the section below.