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Rapture, Blister, Burn

Aug. 13-Sept. 22, 2013
Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles

May 18 - July 1, 2012
Playwrights Horizons, New York

Lee Tergesen plays Don, the center of two women's attention in the premiere production of "Rapture, Blister, Burn," by Gina Gionfriddo.

The play, which also stars Amy Brenneman and Kellie Overbey, is heading west to the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles after a successful run in New York last year. It opens in previews Aug. 13, with opening night set for Aug. 21. It is scheduled to run through Sept. 22.

In New York, the show was in previews starting May 18, 2012, with opening night on June 12. It had originally been scheduled to run through June 24, but was extended to July 1 after a raft of glowing reviews from opening night. An Off Broadway production, the show was at Playwrights Horizons' Mainstage Theater, New York City.

Here's the synopsis, and Lee has a "prize" role!

After grad school, Catherine (Amy Brenneman) and Gwen (Kellie Overbey) chose polar opposite paths. Catherine built a career as a rockstar academic, while Gwen built a home with her husband (Lee Tergesen) and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in polar opposite ways, each woman covets the other's life, commencing a dangerous game of musical chairs — the prize being Gwen's husband. With searing insight and trademark wit, Gina Gionfriddo's comedy is an unflinching look at gender politics in the wake of 20th century feminist ideals.

The husband, Don, is described as a "slacker college dean whose laissez-faire view of life holds a strange allure for Catherine." Lee said the play is about relationships, about "people getting to a point in their life ... and re-thinking everything and maybe they made mistakes."

Whereas the women wonder if they should have taken a different path, Lee said, "Don is a guy who is pretty happy in his life. ... The difference between women and men is that women like to talk about things but not really come up with a solution, whereas men are the fixers. Don has gone through his life doing what he had to do to make things comfortable, even when part of that is starting to get this porn habit which sort of takes [Don] sexually away from [his] wife..."

Following is a "trailer" for the play:

The play was written by Gina Gionfriddo and directed by Peter DuBois. Gionfriddo was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the play “Becky Shaw,” which ran Off Broadway in 2009.

Here's a further description, from Theatre Communications Group:

The two protagonists of Rapture, Blister, Burn, Catherine and Gwen, were best friends during graduate school. Catherine went on to become a star academic in feminist theory, leaving Gwen behind with her ex-boyfriend, Don, to hook up and marry. Twenty years later, both women ponder roads not taken and seem to covet each other’s life. When Catherine returns home to visit her ailing mother, she seizes the occasion to get back in touch with Gwen and Don to heal—or stir up—old conflicts. Looking for work, Catherine asks Don for the opportunity to teach a summer class at the undistinguished local college where he is a dean. Gwen wants to take this class. So does Avery, Gwen’s decidedly post-feminist coed babysitter. Since they meet at Catherine’s house, even Catherine’s mother gets drafted into the class discussion. These informal classes seem to cover almost every post-feminist viewpoint on a wide range of subjects. But they also excite an equally wide range of emotions. Things come to a head between Gwen, Catherine and Don and all three of them seem to get their wish, at least temporarily. Then things fall apart. Progress? Hardly.

Related Links

Geffen Playhouse

Playbill article

Playwrights Horizons

Audio interview with Lee
about his role, etc.

Video preview
of the play

Theatre Communications Group: About the play

Broadway World:
Many photos of cast
and set design


BlogCritics: a two-hour display of consummate storytelling craftsmanship

New York Times: intensely smart, immensely funny new play. ... excellent Lee Tergesen.