Midlife crisis? Just switch places to get clarity Play offers critical study of life’s universal themes

Members of the ‘Rapture’ cast include (left to right) Sullivan Hamilton, Erin Wilson, Sharon Graci and R.W. Smith.

From New York City-based screenwriter, playwright and Guggenheim fellow Gina Gionfriddo and Charleston-based director Cristy Landis, the contemporary drama “Rapture, Blister, Burn” explores the diverged and contrasting lives of former grad school colleagues Catherine (played by Sharon Graci) and Gwen (Erin Wilson) as they each navigate a midlife crisis spawned from discontent, regret, wonder and jealousy.

Audiences find Gwen as a mother of a two living comfortably but bored in a small town with her husband, Don (R.W. Smith), himself a fellow grad student, a dean at the local college and a former love interest of Catherine. While Don’s easygoing nature exudes fulfillment, Gwen stirs with emotion. Feeling too constrained by obligations and responsibility to truly reflect on her life choices, understanding where she made mistakes, much less how to make any corrections, seems impossible. Gwen’s teeming thoughts of squandered capabilities and stunted achievements are compounded by the family’s self-assured and quick-tempered babysitter, Avery (played by Sullivan Hamilton).

Enter Catherine, the wildly successful academic strutting the streets of New York as a high-profile media professor, author and talk-show pundit who has moved home to care for her ailing mother, Alice (played by Cynthia Barnett). For Catherine, caring for Alice is complicated by her mother’s traditional values. Meanwhile, Alice struggles with impressions that her daughter shames her way of life and has gone so astray from norms and good sense that she has put herself out of love’s reach.

But after Gwen and Catherine decide to switch places as a kind of social experiment, Catherine’s real crisis reveals itself in her own yearns for the normalcy she has long resisted, and the reawakening of a love she had tried to forget.

“Rapture, Blister, Burn” examines feminism’s progress across three generations and its effects, asking here how two empowered people can fairly negotiate the sacrifices of marriage and parenting within traditional gender roles. But the play avoids being boxed into the misunderstood feminist drawer by offering a universally critical study of beliefs, love, career, family, friendship and identity through the decisions we all have to make among them.

The play will run at Pure Theatre, 477 King St., through Oct. 2. Tickets are $22 and are available for shows this Thursday (7:30), Friday (7:30), Saturday (3, 7:30) and Wednesday (7:30) online at www.PureTheatre.org or at the theatre box office. Call (843) 723-4444 for more information.

It was a musical revolution that forever changed the world, a spur for desegregation from its epicenter and a seemingly sudden answer to long-mangled questions of national integrity and cultural identity screeching from the mouths of its impoverished youth. Rock ’n’ roll had spoken, and everyone was going to have to listen.

Enacted by two musical storytellers over two hours (with intermission), “Why Is Rock ’n’ Roll?” brings to life a brief history of that time and the decades since through the lens of the genre’s most popular hits. But for moonlighting multi-instrumentalists and singers Jay White and Jim Algar, it’s also a foray into the world of variety theater, telling the story of rock through song, speech and drama in what they describe as a “two-man play, rock concert and TED talk” in one.

It’s a sizable load to bear, and to help shoulder it, the pair lets the music present much of itself. Weaving a historical timeline from the songs of Jimmy Preston, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Bill Haley and the Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Supremes and others, White and Algar illustrate how rock ’n’ roll learned from the blues, jazz, gospel, country, folk and swing to birth early genres such as rhythm and blues, doo wop and rockabilly. White and Algar go on to cover hits from Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Who and Jim Morrison while re-enacting iconic moments in American history tied to rock ’n’ roll. Events range from the inspiring, such as Dylan’s performance at the 1963 “March on Washington” rally, where a Georgia preacher delivered an impassioned speech that forever immortalized the Martin Luther King Jr. era; to the absurd, like the time a gun-gifting Elvis Presley visited Richard Nixon at the White House to ask for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge.

Performances of “Why Is Rock ’n’ Roll” will run at the Woolfe Street Playhouse, 34 Woolfe St., this Friday and Saturday night. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at www.Etix.com or at the Woolfe Street box office. Go to www.WhyIsRockandRoll.com, www.WoolfeStreetPlayhouse.com or call (843) 856-1579 for more information.