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Posts Tagged ‘west end players guild’

Stones In His Pockets
by Marie Jones
Directed by Steve Callahan
West End Players Guild
November 10, 2017

Jason Meyers, Jared Sanz-Agero
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

West End Players Guild take its audience to Ireland for its latest production. Stones In His Pockets is a play with many characters, but only two actors. A story with strong comic and dramatic elements, the show features the talents of two excellent local performers.

Jared Sanz-Agero and Jason Meyers form the entire cast of this production, each playing a variety of characters. Mainly, though, they are Charlie (Sanz-Agero) and Jake (Meyers), two new friends in a small Irish village that has been chosen as the setting for a major motion picture starring a well-known American actress. Many of the locals, including Jake and the newly-arrived Charlie, have been cast as extras in the film, and that’s the source of much of the comedy and drama of this play, as the filming impacts the town in various foreseen and unforeseen ways. Through the course of the story, we see the movie filming and life in this town through the eyes of Jake and Charlie, as well as through other memorable characters like the film director, the mostly friendly but self-absorbed movie star, a veteran extra who is the last surviving extra from the filming of the John Ford/John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara classic film The Quiet Man, and a troubled teenager and his friend. It’s the young teenager, Sean, whose character ultimately impacts the story the most, turning what starts out as a pleasant, insightful comedy into something more bittersweet and even tragic. The issues explored include the importance of hopes and dreams, as well as commercialism and self-importance in the film industry, and the simple decency of treating people like human beings and not just a means to an end.

The technical elements here work well to set the overall mood and atmosphere of rural Ireland, with Tracy Newcomb’s fairly minimal set and Nathan Schroeder’s evocative lighting setting the stage appropriately. Newcomb’s costumes are also excellent, with the two actors in basic, character-specific costumes but then adding small elements–hats, scarves, etc.–to suggest the changes in character. There’s also good work from dialect coach Richard Lewis, helping the actors achieve consistent and believable Irish accents, although there is a small issue with one name (that of a production assistant on the film, named Aisling) being consistently mispronounced. Still, the overall sense of Irish-ness is achieved and maintained well by this production, with the real centerpiece being the remarkable performances of the two leads, as well as the excellent direction that makes the story flow so well.

Sanz-Agero and Meyers are both wonderful in their roles, as the hopeful aspiring screenwriter Charlie and more jaded Jake, who has just returned from a disappointing time trying to make his fortune in America. Both are excellent at changing from character to character but consistently and quickly resuming their “base” characters as needed. For Sanz-Agero, his most memorable other characters include the movie star, Caroline, and the film director. Meyers excels at physicality in his roles, as well, especially finding poignancy in portrayals of Mickey, the elderly extra, and the moody young Sean. Their portrayals are so vivid, and their transitions so smooth, that it almost does seem like there are more actors in the show than just these two at times. These two play against each other extremely well, too, working to tell a convincing story full of humor, sadness, and ultimately hope.

This is the first time I’ve seen this play, and I’m glad I got to see it here. It’s an excellent production from West End Players Guild. Especially, the actors are to be commended for bringing the audience into such a well-realized world.

West End Players Guild is presenting Stones In His Pockets at Union Avenue Christian Church until November 19, 2017.

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Oedipus Apparatus
by Lucy Cashion
from Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus
Directed by Lucy Cashion
West End Players’ Guild
April 21, 2017

Will Bonfliglio, Mitch Eagles
Photo by John Lamb

West End Players Guild

There’s a lot of plot, and plotting, in Oedipus Apparatus. There’s also a king, a queen, a precocious 10-year-old, goddesses and Oracles who host a talk show, and lots of talk of physics, prophecy, psychology, and plagues. This is a Lucy Cashion classic adaption, and it’s just as strange and as fascinating as her takes on Shakespeare she’s done with ERA. Here, at West End Players’ guild, the basement of Union Avenue Christian Church has been turned into a fascinating experiment, and it makes for a production like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Here, the classic tale of Oedipus (Mitch Eagles) is told, and re-told, and deconstructed, and re-tooled, and fused with all sorts of different influences from various times in human history, and particularly the 20th and 21st centuries. In a show that runs just short of two hours and keeps a brisk, steady pace with lots and lots of talking, framing and reframing of scenes, this is sure to keep the viewers’ brains engaged. The experience begins before the play even officially starts, as audience members are ushered down the stairs to Thebes by Antigone (Alicen Moser), Oedipus’s daughter, who is working on a project for history class. That project–a family tree–forms much of the framing device for this play, although what we first hear is a long, guided meditation on the concept of death, and fear of death. When the story begins, the main story focuses on the king, Oedipus, and his efforts to appease the angry god Apollo (Joe Taylor, who also plays music throughout the production) and end a plague in his city. He’s sent his brother-in-law Creon (Will Bonfiglio) to visit the Oracle at Delphi and is informed that he needs to find the murderer of the previous king, Laius, in order to stop the plague. Well, anyone who’s read the original play knows where this is going, at least to a degree, but since this is a Lucy Cashion creation, that means there will be additional–and fascinating–complications. The scene plays, and then it’s reset several times with elements of physics and geometry included in the dialogue, while there are frequent breaks from the linear story as Antigone carries out her history project and the Oracles–Athena (Rachel Tibbetts), Artemis (Cara Barresi), the Sphinx (Ellie Schwetye), Tiresius (Carl Overly, Jr.) and Sigmund Freud (Michael Cassidy Flynn) hold a televised talk show. Meanwhile, Oedipus’s wife, Jocasta (Maggie Conroy), lounges on a couch on one side of the set, seemingly out of the action, until she ultimately joins in.  As the story goes on, and plays and replays, Antigone and several of the cast members arrange props, readjust the set, and start, stop, and speed up the action as directed by Apollo.  As the story is told and retold, the tension keeps building and the situation gets more and more urgent and chaotic as the plot moves to its eventual devastating conclusion.

This isn’t a play that’s particularly easy to describe. There’s so much going on here, and it’s really important to pay attention, and it keeps a steady, increasingly tense pace. There’s tragedy here, but there’s also humor, philosophy, and a lot of math and physics. The blending of story elements from different eras adds a lot of interest here, with Greek goddesses and oracles hanging out with Dr. Freud, and Jocasta serenading the audience with a pop standard. The ideas of fate and the inevitability of death are built into the story as the story builds the machine. The characters here are memorably characterized and expertly played, from Moser’s persistent, enthusiastic Antigone to Eagles’s stubborn, proud Oedipus, to Conroy’s wild-eyed, bewildered Jocasta, to Bonfiglio’s insistent Creon. The pantheon of god, goddesses, and prophets is also strongly represented, from Overly’s belligerent Tiresius, to Flynn’s philosophical Freud, as well as Tibbetts, Schwetye, and Barresi giving strong support along with Taylor’s monotonous, relentless Apollo. It’s a very strong cast, and they’re given a lot to do, even when they’re not speaking, as their actions work to build a machine as the story continues and replays, again and again until just the right moment.

The set here is like a character in the drama, and the whole space has been transformed in service to the set. Kudos to designers Kristin Cassidy, Lucy Cashion, Joe Taylor, Jacob Francois, and Ben Lewis for the intricately constructed set, which is essentially a puzzle with all its pieces to be assembled as the story plays out. Meredith LaBounty’s colorful, whimsical costumes also contribute to this extremely well-realized creation of a timely and also timeless representation of ancient Thebes with a mix of modern sensibilities like cameras and video screens.

This is an immensely clever and  insightful work. There’s a whole lot going on, but there are a lot of strong moments, and fascinating ones like when Freud and Oedipus talk about Hamlet. Yes, that happens. Oedipus Apparatus isn’t what you would expect, and then sometimes it is.  It’s an exciting new experiment and an excellent season closer for West End Players Guild.

Carl Overly Jr., Rachel Tibbetts, Ellie Schwetye, Cara Barresi, Michael Cassidy Flynn, Will Bonfiglio
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

West End Players Guild is presenting Oedipus Apparatus at Union Avenue Christian Church until April 30, 2017.

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The Ice Fishing Play
by Kevin Kling
Directed by Adam Grun
West End Players Guild
February 16, 2017

Scott De Broux, Colleen Backer, Colin Nichols Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Scott De Broux, Colleen Backer, Colin Nichols
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

The Ice Fishing Play is a strange kind of play. It’s got a lot of character, and that’s its strength, but it also struggles with being a little too obvious in its premise. The production currently being staged by West End Players Guild is full of strong performances and an excellent sense of time and place. Still, it’s the story that’s a little thin.

This is an extremely atmospheric play, and that’s not just talking about the weather. The whole situation of a Minnesota ice fishing cabin is extremely well realized, with an extremely detailed set by Zachary Cary and excellent costumes by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave that augment the characterizations of the cast well. The radio show that constantly plays, featuring local personalities Tim (Mark Abels) and Paul (Michael Monsey) is hilariously appropriate, and even occasionally ominous as the story requires. The characters are well-drawn and well-played, as well, but what’s thin is the story concept itself. Following Ron Huber (Colin Nichols) as he waits out another “storm of the century” in his ice fishing hut and entertains a number of guests in the process, the underlying point of this story becomes obvious in about the first ten minutes of the play. From there on, despite the interesting stories and good amount of humor, the play becomes somewhat of an exercise in patience, as the story plays out and leads to its obvious, inevitable conclusion. Despite a small surprise toward the end of Act 2, this play is fairly obvious in where it’s leading, from almost the beginning.

While the obviousness of the story is its biggest weakness, its biggest strength is its characters, and particularly the performances. Nichols makes a fine sympathetic if sad protagonist as Ron, and Colleen Backer is particularly strong as the most prominent figure in his imaginary musings, his determined and devoted artist wife, Irene. There are also strong performances from  Soctt De Broux as Ron’s brother Duff, Michael Pierce and Shannon Lampkin as a pair of bickering evangelists, Moses Weathers as Ron’s friend and bait shop owner Junior, and George Nicholas as a somewhat mysterious Young Man who shows up near the end of the play. It’s a quirky, well-populated world represented here. I just wish the story was a little less predictable.

The Ice Fishing Play has a lot of humor, and some moments of emotion and despair as well. It’s something of an existential play, with a strong element of fantasy, although it’s obvious where everything is going and exactly what Ron is doing fairly early in the play. It’s worth seeing for the richly portrayed world its characters inhabit and for some particularly strong performances, and particularly the well-portrayed relationship between Nichols and Backer.  Although the story itself does have its weaknesses, this play’s biggest strength is its performances, and it’s quirky charm that makes it ultimately entertaining if not as thought-provoking as the playwright may wish.

West End Players Guild is presenting The Ice Fishing Play at Union Avenue Christian Church until February 19, 2017.

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Manifest/Destiny
by Vladimir Zelevinsky
Directed by Steve Callahan
West End Players Guild
November 5, 2016

Jeremy Goldmeier, Emily Johnson, Zach Venturella, Airel Roukaerts Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Jeremy Goldmeier, Emily Johnson, Zach Venturella, Airel Roukaerts
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

West End Players Guild’s newest production is a look at immigration and migration and how generations of settlers have shaped the identity of a nation. It’s also a look at the concept of immigration itself, exploring the reasons why people move from place to place. This St. Louis production of Russian-American playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky’s Manifest/Destiny is constructed in an intriguing way and features some strong performances and memorable moments.

There isn’t one story in this play. There are many. The four player (Jeremy Goldmeier, Emily Johnson, Ariel Roukaerts, and Zach Venturella) all play a variety of characters existing over a span of decades and centuries, representing the many immigrants and settlers, mostly from various parts of Europe, who have come to the United States with hopes of making a home here. The first act focuses on getting here, with the various characters describing their journeys and also their reasons for coming to America, including personal aspirations, religious reasons, and fleeing from oppressive governments. Some of the stories are dramatic and others are humorous, alternating with depicting the experience of travel itself, including water leaks, disease, and dealing with immigration officials at Ellis Island upon arrival. In Act 2, the focus shifts to settlement and migration within the country, as the immigrants traveled an ocean to get to America now find themselves for various reasons wanting to move further and further West. Grueling wagon journeys, disputes with fellow travelers, personal prejudices and legal disputes are depicted as the settlers try to find their place out West. Westward migration isn’t the end, though, as the play suggests the desire to keep moving, keep exploring, is still apparent even toward the “end’ of the story.

This is all very episodic, with some profound and memorable moments such as stories of Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi Germany, and Irish settlers dealing with the harsh realities not only of migration, but of mistreatment and prejudice by their neighbors. There are some clever elements involving the representative nature of the story, as various characters from different time periods interact and inform one another of their own experiences. There’s a funny moment, for instance, when a man from one time period (Venturella) proposes to a woman (Roukaerts) from a different time, and she points out that it will never work out.  Little moments like this exist amidst the other stories of hopes, dreams, conflict and the ever-present desire to find a home. All four performers do an excellent job of portraying different people from different time periods, with Goldmeier getting some of the more memorable monologues, and Johnson getting to lead the cast in a striking rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

The staging, as is usual for most West End productions, utilizes the main stage area and the floor in front of the stage. Director Steve Callahan designed a set that works well with the transient nature of the story, with movable set pieces that can be adjusted to suggest a ship at sail, or a great Western plain, and more. Tracey Newcomb’s costumes outfit the performers well, allowing for the flexibility of playing different characters in different times. There’s also strong lighting work from Rebecca Winslow and sound from Mary Beth Winslow. Overall, the production has much in-motion feel that works very well for the theme of this show.

Manifest/Destiny is a well-told story. It’s not anything especially innovative or groundbreaking, but these stories are important to remember and playwright Zelevinsky has portrayed them with poignancy. The cast members do an excellent job of living the story instead of simply telling it, as well. It’s a history lesson, but it doesn’t forget that it’s humans who make history.

West End Players Guild is presenting Manifest/Destiny at Union Avenue Christian Church until November 13, 2016.

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Arcadia
by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Ellie Schwetye
West End Players Guild
October 1, 2016

Michael Cassidy Flynn Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Michael Cassidy Flynn
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

I had never seen or read Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia before seeing this latest staging at West End Players Guild. Now, I think I have a new play to add to my list of favorites. Not knowing exactly what to expect when I sat down to watch it, I was soon impressed with the brilliance of the writing, which is well showcased in the remarkable staging at WEPG.

This play is, simply put, a masterpiece of contemporary theatre. It’s so intricately plotted and the characters are well-drawn and believable. There are so many little clues to the various mysteries that unfold here, and that’s another great aspect of this play. There’s more than one answer to find.  Cleverly, the play takes place at the same English country estate in two different time periods–the present day and the early 19th Century.  We’re first introduced to the 19th Century characters including young Thomasina Coverly (Kristin Rion), the daughter of the aristocratic family that owns the estate, and her tutor Septimus Hodge (Michael Cassidy Flynn), a scholarly and somewhat romantically adventurous young man who, we eventually find out, is an old school friend of Lord Byron’s. We also meet Thomasina’s mother, the jaded aristocrat Lady Croom (Ann Marie Mohr) and her brother, Captain Brice of the Royal Navy (Anthony Wininger), as well as the family’s enthusiastic landscaper Richard Noakes (Carl Overly, Jr.), who has grand plans for redesigning the grounds of the estate. There’s also an insecure, mediocre poet, Ezra Chater (Andrew Kuhlman) who has several complaints against Septimus regarding Chater’s poetry and his wife. We spend a good deal of time in this era until we’re eventually transported to modern times, in which the ancestors of the Coverly family still own and live on the estate, including the outgoing Chloe Coverly (Erin Renee Roberts), her quiet brother Gus (Mason Hunt), and studious brother Valentine Coverly (Jaz Tucker), who is working on mathematical equations concerning the local grouse population. Another scholar has also arrived to stay with the family, English literature specialist Hannah Jarvis (Nicole Angeli), whom Valentine refers to as his “fiancee” although their relationship doesn’t seem as clearly defined on her side. Hannah’s there to work on another scholarly project–finding out the identity of a hermit who lived on the grounds sometime after the time period featured in the first part of the play.  Another scholar, the egotistical Bernard Nightingale (John Wolbers), also arrives working on yet another project involving Lord Byron’s connection with the estate, and as the modern day characters interact and do their research, the action frequently switches back to the 19th Century plot, where we learn exactly how accurate the present-day scholars’ research turns out to be. It’s a gradual process, and I’m realizing now that my description my make this all sound hopelessly dry, but it isn’t in the least. The characters are so richly drawn and the events play out in surprising and fascinating ways, dealing with important issues concerning the importance of integrity in scholarship, the process of scientific discovery, the ignoring of the roles of brilliant women in history, and more.  This is a very dense but extremely well plotted and thoughtful play, and West End’s production is a superb rendition of this remarkable script.

Director Ellie Schwetye has staged this play in a lucid, dynamic way that makes everything the audience needs to know readily apparent, although it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open because there’s a whole lot going on. The set is static throughout, with few changes to the props between the time periods. Most of what is there, is there in both eras, suggesting more of a link between the two stories. All the little clues that are dropped throughout are there for the noticing, and the period details are very well-realized, as well. Tracey Newcomb-Margrave’s costumes outfit the characters with excellent detail, from the character-appropriate modern costumes to the vibrant 19th Century attire. There’s also excellent atmospheric lighting by Benjamin Lewis and strong sound design by Schwetye.

Even with such a wonderful script, a play like this requires a first-rate cast, and this production has that. Led by the strong, earnest performances of Flynn as Septimus and Angeli as Hannah, this cast doesn’t have a weak link. Other standouts include Wolbers in a lively performance as the pompous Bernard, Rion in a winning turn as the inquisitive, ahead-of-her-time Thomasina, Mohr as the somewhat imperious Lady Croom, Kuhlman as the defensive Chater, Overly as the energetic Noakes, and Hunt in a dual role as the silent Gus and his more gregarious ancestor, Augustus Coverly. Everyone is excellent, however, no matter the size of the role, and the ensemble chemistry–extremely important in a show like this–is superb.

Arcadia is one of those plays that makes me want to buy the script. As presented at West End Players Guild, the excellent words are brought to glorious, fascinating life. It’s a great show, and it’s only playing for one more weekend. Go see it if you can.

Nicole Angeli, Michael Cassidy Flynn, Mason Hunt, Kristin Rion, Jaz Tucker Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Nicole Angeli, Michael Cassidy Flynn, Mason Hunt, Kristin Rion, Jaz Tucker
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

West End Players Guild is presenting Arcadia at Union Avenue Christian Church until October 9, 2016. 

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Great Falls
by Lee Blessing
Directed by Tom Kopp
West End Players Guild
April 9, 2016

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

Great Falls is not a happy play, and that’s an understatement. The newest offering from West End Players Guild is a two-person travelogue of a play that takes its audience on a tour not only of the American Northwest, but of its lead characters’ emotions and personal struggles. It’s a well-cast character study that does manage to evoke a few laughs, although for the most part its outlook on life is grim.

The characters here–a recently divorced man and his former stepdaughter–aren’t given names. They’re listed in the program and referred to in the play as Monkey Man (Isaiah DiLorenzo) and Bitch (Shannon Lampkin). In the wake of multiple infidelities and an acrimonious divorce, Monkey Man is eager to salvage his relationship with his ex-wife’s daughter, so he takes her on an impromptu road trip to South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana with the intention of revisiting the locations of his own childhood vacations, as well as having some serious conversations. Although his intent is to maintain a relationship, Bitch isn’t interested, at least at first. Through the course of the play, their journey takes them to a variety of well-known and lesser known locations, and some surprising truths are revealed. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that many of those truths are unpleasant, and the play’s revelations about the nature of the men and boys in Bitch’s life are more than a little disturbing. It has its lighter moments, but the overall mood is increasingly dark.

The interplay between the two performers is the highlight of this production. DiLorenzo portrays a determined, guilt-plagued Monkeyman, trying to maintain a sense of optimism and not quite succeeding, as he continually spars with Lampkin’s snarky, moody character who insists that Monkeyman call her Bitch. Their verbal sparring is the centerpiece of the show, and their journey from antipathy to empathy and beyond is compelling to watch.

The setting here is fairly simple. As usual for most WEPG productions, the production utilizes the stage and the area in front of it, with Stephanie Draper’s set framed by material suggesting a cavern of some sort. There’s a low-budget hotel room set on the stage, and a simple framework of Monkeyman’s car that is brought for several scenes, and a backdrop with projections representing the various landmarks the characters visit. The costumes, by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave, are well-suited to the characters, and Draper’s lighting is also effective.

This play is more than “not happy”, really. It can be downright depressing, with an ending that leaves more questions than answers. Themes of estrangement, loneliness, violence and assault are addressed in a matter-of-fact manner that can be jarring and relentless. Still, it does a good job of creating a mood and setting, and the characters are well portrayed.  Great Falls is not for all audiences, but it tells a memorable story.

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Shannon Lampkin, Isaiah DiLorenzo
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

Great Falls is being presented by West End Players Guild at Union Avenue Christian Church until April 17th, 2016.

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Rapture, Blister, Burn
by Gina Gionfriddo
Directed by Stephen Peirick
West End Players Guild

November 14, 2015

Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt, Mara Bollini, Donna Weinsting Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt, Mara Bollini, Donna Weinsting
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

You know a play is going to raise eyebrows when it contains phrases such as “Phyllis Schlafly was right.” There’s more to that sentence than you might, think, though, as espoused by the characters in Gina Gionfreddo’s Pultizer Prize nominated play Rapture, Blister, Burn.  A confrontational and thought-provoking look at various schools of thought in the history of feminism, as well as how those ideas play out in modern culture, this fascinating comedy is currently being presented in an entertaining, well-cast production by West End Players Guild.

The story follows two former grad school roommates and their widely diverging lives in the years since graduation. Catherine (Nicole Angeli) is now a celebrated academic and feminist writer who has published books and appeared on talk shows. While Catherine is successful in her career but has never married, her friend Gwen (Mara Bollini) took the opposite route–she married Catherine’s ex-boyfriend, college dean Don (Jeff Kargus), and became a stay-at-home mom. Now, years later, Catherine has moved close by to look after her mother Alice (Donna Weinsting), who is recovering from a recent heart attack, and old issues between Catherine, Gwen, and Don are brought back up, with Catherine and Gwen each observing the other’s life and wondering if maybe she should have taken a different route. Meanwhile, Catherine is teaching a seminar at her house conveniently attended by Gwen (who’s trying to finish her graduate degree) and Gwen’s recently fired babysitter, the younger and more confrontational Avery (Elizabeth Van Pelt). In between discussions of such disparate thinkers as Betty Friedan, the aforementioned Schlafly, and Dr. Phil, the issues of what it means to be a woman relating to men in today’s society are played out in various increasingly complicated ways.

This is a wordy play, occasionally coming across more as an academic discussion than a show. Although the conceit of the seminar is there, it seems slightly contrived that the only two students would be Gwen and Avery, with occasional commentary by Alice, who supplies the martinis and adds to the dialogue with her tales of marriage and motherhood in an earlier generation. As funny as it is, with sharp comedy and well-drawn characters, it’s also an extremely dense play that brings up some serious issues for thought and discussion. Its conclusions may be controversial as well, and the fact that the only man in the play is the occasionally charming but admittedly aimless Don makes one wonder what the playwright is really saying about men. Although it does try to provide some answers, this play raises a lot more questions, and that’s probably the point. With all the conflicting messages, what’s a modern woman to do? Is it better to have a career or a family, or can a woman have both successfully? Is that even a realistic or desired goal to pursue? Issues of career ambition, sexual politics, and societal stereotypes and expectations are explored and illustrated, with some topics getting more weight than others.

The cast here is excellent, and a key factor in conveying the messages of this play without having it seem like a lecture. Angeli is engagingly sympathetic as the conflicted Catherine, who projects an air of knowledge but is soon shown to have more questions than answers. She works well against the equally excellent Bollini as the weary “super mom”, Gwen, who comes across as somewhat stuffy and controlling at first but who also portrays a believable journey of self-discovery. Both actresses portray convincing chemistry with Kargus’s amiable but unambitious Don. The best comic moments in the play are delivered by Weinsting as the loving but opinionated Alice, and especially the hilarious Van Pelt as the young, outgoing and outspoken Avery. I especially was convinced by the bond that develops between Avery and Catherine.

The production is well-staged by director Stephen Peirick, who also designed the detailed, two-level set that represents Gwen and Don’s house (on the floor in front of the stage), and Alice’s place (on stage). There are also character appropriate costumes by Tracey Newcomb and proficient lighting by Amy Ruprecht and sound by Mary Beth Winslow. The technical aspects along with the staging work to establish the realistic atmosphere of the production, putting us into these characters’ world in a convincing way.

Whether or not you agree with all the conclusions in Rapture, Blister, Burn, there’s a lot to think about here. It’s all presented in an entertaining and challenging tone by West End Players Guild’s excellent cast. A variety of viewpoints are examined frankly and vividly here, and it’s sure to be the starter of some fascinating conversations.

Mara Bollini, Jeff Kargus, Nicole Angeli Photo by John Lamb West End Players' Guild

Mara Bollini, Jeff Kargus, Nicole Angeli
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players’ Guild

Rapture, Blister, Burn is being presented by West End Players Guild at Union Avenue Christian Church until November 22, 2015.

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