“Stories about Christian kids and sex are always funny,” sophomore actress Emily Anderson said.
Anderson plays Carlyle, the female lead in Generic Theatre Company’s presentation of “The Stonewater Rapture,” which ran this past weekend at Lisner Downstage. Senior Kiernan McGowan directs, and Adam Jacobs rounds out the two-person cast as Whitney, the male lead.
Anderson is certainly right, at least with regard to this play. The first act takes off as Carlyle bickers with Whitney, her somewhat boyfriend – somewhat boyfriend” because thus far the two have never kissed and only rarely touched. Coyly, Carlyle tells Whitney that they should not be in the house when his parents are not home, and they head to the front porch.
Outside, the talk quickly turns to more typical teenage subjects such as kissing and porn. Carlyle exhibits an intense interest in all of these subjects, yet she attempts to pass off this interest as disgust, fooling no one. Anderson and Jacobs get the delivery just right. They are intensely earnest, allowing the audience to see the humor in the lines without not playing it up.
Set on a sparse stage with only a bench, a white couch, a small table and carpet, “The Stonewater Rapture” is at once awkward, funny and heart-wrenching. The characters truly care for each other but they can’t seem to figure out how to align what’s important to both of them. For Whitney, it is sexual contact. He complains, “I’ve lost sleep some nights cause there isn’t any blood to go to my brain.”
For Carlyle, her priorities are being good in the eyes of God and her mother. When Whitney says she’s pretty, Carlyle responds, “Damn! Mama says the ugly girls are the lucky ones ’cause they don’t have to worry.If I were pretty I wouldn’t want to waste it by being good.”
After a very funny first act, the second act takes a more serious tone when Carlyle is raped by the school football team and asks Whitney to be her Joseph. She’s reinvented the incident, casting herself as a sort of modern Mary, continuing her Biblical comparison in which she was not impregnated by boys but by Michelangelo-esque angels.
This tragic turn might come across as forced or trite in the hands of a lesser director and performers, but here, it comes across as true. The audience believes it. The first act has so perfectly established Whitney and Carlyle’s relationship and an overall tone that what follows seems natural and right.
Both Anderson and Jacobs said that at the start the first act was their favorite to perform, but as their comfort level with one another grew, they came to prefer the second act due to its climax and release.
The play is both haunting and funny. It left audiences still thinking about it days later, and it is a wonderful surprise for someone unsure of what to expect. McGowan brought “Rapture” to GW after seeing a performance this summer with friends. He said, “I just knew I had to share it. I kept thinking about it days later.”
Thankfully, he was able to bring it to GW and so created a terrific 90 minutes.