Theater Review: The Stonewater Rapture Grapples with Teen Sexuality in a Small, Conservative Town with a Big High School Football Program | Arts

Theater Review: The Stonewater Rapture Grapples with Teen Sexuality in a Small, Conservative Town with a Big High School Football Program

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The Stonewater Rapture
★★★
Through Friday, June 23
Imurj, Raleigh


When playwright Doug Wright focuses on two teenagers grappling with their sexuality and their consciences in a repressive religious culture, The Stonewater Rapture seems like a modern-day (but non-musical) Texas update of Spring Awakening.

That’s particularly the case when, in Aggregate Theatre Company's production at Imurj, the heart-rendingly earnest Carlyle (Lexie Braverman), a young girl raised in a house so strict The Scarlet Letter is contraband, assures Whitney (Matthew Hager), a torn preacher’s kid, that they will surely be forgiven if they sample each other’s forbidden fruits.

But as both are exposed to the boys-will-be-boys forms of sexual pathology that are socially acceptable in a small, conservative town with a big high school football program, Wright veers instead toward the vicious world of Philip Ridley’s Dark Vanilla Jungle, as the pair's escalating rationalizations and denials take on increasingly malignant lives of their own. The football bullies who gay-bait Whitney become his role models, while Carlyle's religious worldview transforms her tormentors into something even more extreme.

There’s heartbreak in this tale of innocents trying to preserve the goodness between them in a cruel, grubby culture. It’s unfortunate, then, that Wright severely constricts a story that should have been a full-length play into a one-act. Director Jaybird O’Berski has developed robust, believable characters we strongly pull for with Hager and Braverman, in her last local role before she moves to New York this fall. But the mashed-together cascade of events, descriptions, and responses leave inadequate time for characters or audience to process what has taken place, stealing these tender hearts away from us well before we want to let them go.


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