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20% Theatre Company regionally premieres “Rapture, Blister, Burn”

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s tackles contemporary feminism with humor, critical theory and loads of tension.

As each hour of rehearsal ticked by, director Anya Kremenetsky and the rest of her company tried to perfect the pacing of “Rapture, Blister, Burn.”

Kremenetsky said this play, put on by 20% Theatre Company, is challenging in the way its characters are constantly shifting paradigms.

“The women in the play bounce back and forth from traditional to progressive to radical philosophies on how to navigate romantic relationships, careers, families,” she said. “We find that the only rule may be that there aren’t any rules.”

“Rapture, Blister, Burn” centers on a feminist academic named Catherine. She’s published two books, speaks at esteemed institutions and is considered important in the world of women’s studies. However, “Rapture” finds her in a moment of vulnerability — early on, she expresses regret about not settling down and starting a family.

When she returns to her hometown to take care of her sick mother, Catherine unexpectedly reconnects with an old flame who’s married to her best friend. As things get complicated, all of the characters are forced to reconcile with a question articulated by one of Catherine’s students: “You either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad?”

The play fits in with 20% Theatre Company’s mission of supporting the work of female and transgender theater artists.  It’s something Renee Werbowski, who plays Catherine, said is indispensable to the Twin Cities theater community.

“What attracts me to this play is its sneaky humor mixed in with this great big discussion about where we stand as a society with regard to the value of women,” she said.

For Werbowski, “Rapture, Blister, Burn” has been a challenge she’s loved taking on.

“What’s challenging for me is to play an accomplished, confident person who is also at the most vulnerable point in her life so far,” she said. “What excites me is the challenge to make this real — to really reach each person in the audience in one way or another.”

The play was similarly enticing for Kremenetsky, who said she felt like she couldn’t avoid doing the play once she’d read it.

“We’ve had a great time in rehearsal discussing the inner lives of these characters and how we can personally relate to what they’re going through,” she said. “It seems this play brings up issues that we’ve all been itching to talk about.”

Kremenetsky said she wants audiences to leave with more questions than answers — for her, social change begins with a dialogue.

“What drives the choices we make? What is empowering for women, and who gets to decide? Is there a formula for happiness and fulfillment?” she said. “For me, these questions are what make this play important.”


What: “Rapture, Blister, Burn”
When: 7:30 p.m. April 25-May 10
Where: Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $5-25


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