Friday, February 28, 2014

Rapture, Blister, Burn by the Aux Dog Theatre Company

Oh, we humans... our foibles, our tendencies to dream, as well as to torment (mostly ourselves) with the question, "What if?" So many of us have faced a "crossroads moment" in our lives and taken (by choice or happenstance) one path, only to look back and wonder about that other road we didn't travel, and to ponder. This is the essence of the dilemma behind Aux Dog Theatre's latest work, "Rapture, Blister, Burn," a Pulitzer nominated comedy by Gina Gionfriddo that's now its Southwest premiere.

It begins with a love triangle from college -- two girls, roommates even, and one guy. When Catherine loses Don to Gwen, events are set into motion that provoke each of them to later wonder, "What if?" Don and Gwen (Ryan Montenery and Jessica Osbourne) are married with children, living a life of suburban normality. But Gwen recalls the education and career she never pursued, and wonders if she would be happier if she had. Catherine (Sheridan Johnson) recalls the love she shared with Don, and despite giving her life to her career, realizes that when her mother (Gail Gillock Spidle) passes, there will be no one left who truly loves her, and questions her life's choices as well.

Catherine's informal classes on feminist theory held in her home provide the premise of this play something meaty and thought provoking to hang its love triangle on. As Catherine instructs her two students, Gwen and Avery (Sara Rosenthal), the flippant teenager whose outlook on femininity is somewhat pessimistic, she's also joined by her martini-making mother, Alice (Gail Gillock Spidle).

Avery provides the youngest perspective on the feminist discussions; her outlook is bleak yet realistic, if overly simplified. Observing Gwen and Catherine twist in the discomfort of their own life choices between career versus marriage, she declares, "Women are fucked!" Alice voices the views of an older generation, and the rules women lived by, giving us perspective on how things have changed (and how they haven't).

The characters discover their own solution to the dilemma of how to have it all, or as Catherine put it, "Create a life that makes you happy." But... well, we're human, and even with the best laid plans things still fall apart. Perhaps one detail that spoke to me most poignantly was the use of the set during scene changes, when telephone sex ads, love scenes from classic films, and other images of women, love, and sex are projected onto the walls. After all, what more are these "What if?" moments we torment ourselves with but our own internal projections?

It is Avery who says, "We all have personal mythologies," just as we all have these crossroad moments in our lives that make us wonder about the greener grass we never found. Directed by Kristine Holtvedt, the clever comedy left me still pondering some of the show's concepts, and I love when art provokes that kind of introspection, emotion and analysis. To find out more, or to buy tickets online, visit their website at, or give the theatre a call at 505.254.7716.

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