Theater Takeaway: Wilbury’s Rapture, Blister, Burn

Your raging second-wave aunt, your “I’m not a feminist” friend, your less-than-ambitious spouse: All of these people will love this show. And you will, too.

Career or family?

The age-old question gets a good battering in Wilbury Theatre Group’s latest show, Rapture, Blister, Burn, a bleak, funny feminist manifesto directed by Susie Schutt and written Brown alum Gina Gionfriddo.

At one key moment during the show, actor Alex Maynard, playing the crass twenty-one-year-old college student, Avery, reduces the women’s movement to dust in a single line: “You either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad.”

It may seem like well-tilled ground, but Rapture, Blister, Burn covers gender politics in a fresh way. It’s the ultimate exploration of the modern woman, whether she’s a stay-at-home mom, a careerist, a widowed retiree or a co-ed feeling her way to adulthood. And thanks to impeccable casting, Wilbury lays on another level of accessibility — intimacy, even — to a play that’s filled with polarizing ideas.

Here’s the takeaway:


The Odd Couple — or Are They?

Wilbury’s Rapture, Blister, Burn is the rare-bird sort of show where you miss a character — read: any character — if they’re offstage a little too long.

Christine Wolfskel’s Gwen, a stay-at-home mother and nonstop talker, is infuriating and endearing. She wants more for herself and her two sons, but she’s financially dependent on a porn-obsessed, ambitionless husband. This leads us to David Rabinow’s Don, the underachieving man. Rabinow’s Don is laidback and likeable, except when you hear his wife’s side of the story. Their relationship feels about as regular as it gets — until some juicy sanctioned adultery and life-swapping ensues.

The Lesson

Jackie Davis’s Catherine — who is Don’s former lover and Gwen’s old roommate — is in town to care for her ailing mother (Patricia Thomas), her only lifeline as a single, middle-aged woman. To keep busy, Catherine teaches a college summer course on media studies and meets the independent, spunky and black-eyed Avery, played by Alex Maynard. (In a somewhat artificial twist, Gwen is the only other student in the class; she has new aspirations of finishing her degree.) Catherine and Avery represent their generations’ unique feminist ambitions: One’s a successful career woman with no strings attached and the other’s a sexually liberal young woman who assumes she can have it all without sacrifice. Throw in Gwen’s homemaker perspective, plus insights from Catherine’s mother and the pioneers of the feminist and anti-feminist movements, and the audience gets a brief lesson in women’s studies.


The Music

Fiona Apple, Ben Harper, Radiohead, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and more: Whoever was in charge of choosing music for the set changes killed it. Bravo, Wilbury.


The Dialogue

It was a treat to watch these actors interact. From the first awkward scene to the tension-heavy second act, I felt as if I was peeping through a keyhole and into the real lives of real people. Wilbury’s intimate theater, combined with a stripped down set that doubled as a backyard and a living room, added a degree of closeness, too. But it was the quick, easy dialogue that felt most natural.


Wilbury Theatre Group’s Rapture, Blister, Burn is onstage now through April 4. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for seniors and $25 for general admission. Visit for more information.