Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blistered, Burned, Enraptured

Back from last night's first preview performance of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn, at the Round House Theatre, and the only glitch in the proceedings was that they brought the houselights up when the audience was trying to give the cast a standing ovation. I felt a little cheated out of showing them the love.

Previously in Hosaa's Blog, I reported very little about my experience with Gionfriddo's last play on the RHT stage, Becky Shaw. Didn't like it. The characters were just not people I wanted to spend two hours of my life with. With RBB, however, I had more in common with the characters: two 40-something women--one married and the other a single, successful academic--and the lunk of a husband/love interest they shared, plus the 70-something mother of the single scholar, and one wiseass 20-something babysitter/would-be reality-TV developer.

Oh, exactly which character did I "relate" to? "Cathy" (Michelle Six), the single, successful academic, you say? Ha Ha Ha! Well, actually, the part about her that I did relate to was her relationship with her mother, "Alice" (Helen Hedman), and the realization that no man would ever love her the same way that her mom did. That part is true, and a lot of us just don't realize that until mom dies. That's a shame.

I could actually connect a bit with the lunk of a husband/love interest, "Don" (Tim Getman), because at the root of his problems is his own self-defeating awareness that he can't live up to other people's expectations of him or to his own sense of potential. He resorts to pot and porn to soothe his sagging ego and goes on letting down the two women who (inexplicably, IMO) love and compete for him. (I guess I know what I resort to--not pot and porn, though. *g*) 

The stay-at-home wife, "Gwen" (Beth Hylton), is the judgey recovering alcoholic who yearns for the presumably better life of the single friend whose boyfriend she stole and married rather than completing grad school.

And for a generational perspective to balance that of the not-dead-yet heart-attack-surviving mom, we get the babysitter "Avery" (Maggie Erwin, my new great actress to watch). The wise-beyond-her-years free spirit is appreciative of the freedoms won by our feminist ancestors but can't really relate to the problems of an earlier era. We can vote because suffrage was obviously right. Duh.

Maggie Erwin. Publicity photo via RHT Facebook.
The characters are not quite caricatures, but do come off as stereotypes. Or maybe archetypes. And the business of women yearning to switch lives with each other is nothing new (see Turning Point with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, for example). Then there's the ridiculous plot device of having the wife and babysitter as the only students of the single-scholar for a seminar on feminism and female portrayals in popular culture--a seminar that takes place in the mom's house so we can get all the females in the same place together, relating their personal experiences to academic observations.

But the direction by Shirley Serotsky and acting by all (seriously, Erwin is a revelation) more than made up for these contrivances. The historic and cultural references (Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly, the messages behind slasher movies) all brought out touchstones to touch and mull on. And instead of just being angry and making the audience angry (or defensive), the dialogue, the conversations, invited a lot of self-reflection. What do we want as women? And what happens if we get it? Or don't get it? And what do men have to do with it anyway?

I go back to the relationship between the mother and the grown daughter. My mother was just that supportive and nurturing (in her own weird, narcissistic way--that's another blog). Mothers teach their daughters that love means being supportive and encouraging, so we expect that in a husband. When the men turn out to expect that of their wives but not of themselves, that's where the frustrations start.

Avery is the one with the answer to all that crap. Maybe you just outsource it.

love, hosaa
Still thinking a butler would be better than a husband, in many ways.

1 comment:

sarala said...

I just saw this play two weeks ago. I loved it and related to the two middle aged female characters in varying ways. I agree that some of the characters were a bit overplayed--I thought especially the husband. The play definitely made me think about how feminism has changed since I was young. Well written review.