WEPG Gives Us A Humorous Dose Of Feminism In “Rapture, Blister, Burn”

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Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt and Mara Bollini during a class session in “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

Never thought I’d have to hear the name Phyllis Schlafly again but up she pops in the latest West End Players Guild production of “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by Gina Gionfriddo. I like Schlafly Brewery and their beer (especially Zwickel) but Phyllis Schlafly brings up a host of memories for her warped view of feminism back in the 70’s. Between her and Doris Bass, who tried to close down the first professional company of “Hair” in St. Louis, our town was almost set back a hundred years.

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Mara Bollini, Jeff Kargus and Nicole Angeli try to resolve their dilemma in WEPG’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Photo: John Lamb

Fortunately, this wonderful script brings a lighter touch to the history of feminism by bringing out the principles of the movement as it related to our culture during various stages over the years. Catherine is a well-known and respected academic who returns to her New England roots to take care of her mother, Alice, who recently suffered a heart attack and to work at the local university. Her ex-boyfriend still lives there with his wife and two children. The wife, Gwen, just happens to be Catherine’s former roommate who took Don away from her all those years ago when Catherine decided to pursue the life of lecturer and author and travel the world. Gwen then left college to settle down and have children. Don continued his education and is now one of the Deans at the university.

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Mama joins the discussion as Donna Weinsting ® brings martinis to Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt and Mara Bollini in “Rapture, Blister, Burn at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

It is the summer and, before Catherine enters the Fall schedule, she decides to set up a seminar to get her feet wet. Of course, Gwen decides to take the course and, since only one other student, Avery, is in the class, Catherine sets up the seminar in her mother’s house. As you can tell, this scenario is just asking for fireworks to happen. The roles of women in society come into play throughout the spirited debates in class and it all gets very personal. Drastic events occur until a final resolution is arrived at and the participants and instructor are all changed- hopefully for the better.

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Nicole Angeli and Jeff Kargus renew their relationship during “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

One of our town’s most versatile actresses, Nicole Angeli, gives a great mix of sophistication and vulnerability to the role of Catherine. She commands the stage with her brains and beauty while innuendoes fly between her and Gwen. As Gwen, Mara Bollini matches her as if playing opposing counsel in a trial. She uses the various movie references throughout the seminar to bring the Phyllis Schlafly point of view to the forefront to combat the words and mind set of the feminist outlook.

As the catalyst stirring the pot in the discussions is Elizabeth Van Pelt as the fiery Avery. Younger than the other two, she jumps in the middle of the obvious battle of career versus motherhood that evolves. Her spirited nature is a delight and she soon becomes a foil battling both sides of the argument. As Don, Jeff Kargus has taken the low road of mediocrity in his career path- a point Gwen never lets him forget- and becomes the very anti-feminism “prize” during this give-and-take.

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Elizabeth Van Pelt, Donna Weinsting and Nicole Angeli reach a comfortable conclusion at West End Players Guild production of “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Photo: John Lamb

Rounding out the cast is the clever and often snarky Alice- given a brilliant performance by Donna Weinsting. She has obviously taken the unexpected role of encouraging her daughter to break up the marriage and go after the not-so-coveted “prize.” Rarely have we seen four stronger women carry a play like this one. They bring an over-the-top quality to four very different women and give feminism a real boot in the butt. Does the outcome bode well for Gloria Steinem or Phyllis Schlafly? Or are they both passé at this point? You make the call in this very complex and highly entertaining script.

Director Stephen Peirick keeps the action flowing in what could become a very wordy play and he really hits the point time and again with his astute look at the subject. “Rapture, Blister, Burn” is so much fun and this superb cast makes it sizzle and pop. Don’t miss it as it plays through November 22nd at West End Players Guild. Give them a call at 314-667-5686 for tickets or more information.

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