A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Amy Brenneman and Virginia Kull in Gina Gionfriddo’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at the Geffen Playhouse / Photo by Michael Lamont

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn” — full of smart, witty dialogue delivered by the sharp, spot-on original New York cast of five — receives a solid crowd-pleasing production at the Geffen Playhouse. Director Peter DuBois deftly keeps his actors and their action moving at a smooth, steady pace in this two-hour perspective on feminism, relationships, choices and generational mores.

What would happen if, through an alignment of stars, you had the chance to have a do-over with your life? This intriguing group of characters has not been careful in what they have wished for. Residual/collateral damage results with surprising epiphanies revealed.

Three college chums reunite after 13 years. One, Catherine, achieves success as a writer/lecturer living in New York. The other two, Gwen and Don, married each other, had two kids and settled into a quiet life in a New England college town.

The play begins when Catherine comes back home to take care of her possibly dying mother Alice. Amy Brenneman seamlessly gives Catherine appropriate portions of New York sophistication, daughterly concern, scholarly intellectualism and giddy schoolgirl crushing. Catherine’s overconfidence and self-esteem get tested over and over again, offering Brenneman every opportunity to display her acting prowess.

Kellie Overbey intricately reveals her exposed nerve as the complacent housewife/mother Gwen. Sensing the potential for explosiveness, she is leery of reuniting their college triangle.

Lee Tergesen effortlessly shows the manboy Don has grown into — unambitious and content with smoking pot and watching porn, he is nevertheless a responsible and doting father.

Beth Dixon, lovingly wise and startlingly hip as Alice, Gwen’s not-yet-ready-to-die mom, amply provides the heart and soul of these connected characters. Alice is even willing to die if that means her daughter can finally find happiness — with a man.

Virginia Kull steals every scene she’s in as Avery, the babysitter/student, with her surprisingly keen observations, showing wisdom beyond her years, or generation. How interesting to see the student and teacher roles subtly reversed.

The Geffen production values never disappoint, especially Alexander Dodge’s gorgeous and functional moving set pieces.

You will be enraptured by this entertaining piece of theater.

—Gil Kaan, Culture Spot LA

Performances continue through Sept. 22 at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., LA 90024. Show times are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. For tickets, visit www.geffenplayhouse.com or call (310) 208-5454.