OGDEN — Utah author Rachel Bublitz has a new Utah premiere at the Good Company Theatre with Ripped. The play tells the story of a college freshman, Lucy (played by Sydnie Schwarzwalder) and explores the confusion of wanted sexual experience, consent, rape, and how to process and handle these experiences in our lives. The subject matter in this show is heavy, and it is intended for mature audiences. I have come to trust the bold subject matter and content within the shows presented at Good Company, but even reading the synopsis of this show made me a little worried about how this production would handle the delicacy of this matter, and I looked forward to seeing how director Nicole Finney navigated this balance.
The small cast of three—Callahan Crnich as Jared, Tristan B. Johnson as Bradley, and Schwarzwalder—handled the balance of emotions well. I enjoyed some of the lighter elements of the show, such as the parts where Jared and Lucy were getting to know one another. In the scene, the two actors were playing off one another well, and the humor that was inserted by playwright to break up the intense seriousness of the show.
Bublitz’s script was sensitive and thought-provoking. In my day job I work with many people who have dealt with trauma and we speak a lot about trauma-informed care. I would describe Ripped as trauma-informed writing. I appreciated the way that Bublitz deeply looked at all sides of the very intense issue of rape, intimacy, and the way mind reacts to trauma.
When discussing trauma, Schwarzwalder’s peformance needs to be singled out. Watching her in the quiet moments of the show as she was able to portray in her physicality how much trauma is a full body and mind experience. In particular, there was a scene between Johnson and Schwarzwalder where I could see Schwarzwalder shaking from fear. I was so enthralled with how true to character she handled this element of the performance. Later, Johnson and Schwarzwalder have another interaction where Lucy plays off her own feelings and concerns in a way to protect herself. The reactions of trauma that she shows are the same that I have often seen in my clients (some of whom react this way almost subconsciously). Schwarzwalder portrayed this reality in a way that was absolutely stellar.
I commend the choice of Finney to employ the use of Andre Barratt Lewis as an intimacy coach, not only to make sure that the audience gets the best performance possible, but to also ensure that the actors are not themselves traumatized from the intense subject matter. I appreciate all the care and consideration that was put into this important piece.
The scenic and technical design of this show was simple, as most of the action happens in limited places, such as a small apartment and inside a car, but the space was designed well by Camille Washington. I also enjoyed the costumes and props by Alicia Washington, especially an important favorite dress worn by Lucy throughout the show. Once in a while a piece of clothing can actually become a character, and this dress certainly did. Lighting design by Gary Gabriel White and sound design by Kyle Lawrence added to the simple backdrop well by providing the needed ambiance without overshadowing the actors, but framing them with precision. As technical director, Austin Hull has done a fantastic job pulling this show together with his team.
Ripped is an intensely difficult and thought-provoking show to watch. It was a reminder that trauma can affect people’s minds in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. Ripped was also a reminder that people often only know one side of a story and are not aware of all the different things that lead up to a specific incident. Having had time to think about the show, I still feel like I am trying to understand exactly what happened, but I what I do know is that Bublitz’s look at how rape and trauma effects people is a fantastic. It is not a light-hearted look, and it will leave you slightly uncomfortable in your seat, but this is a good thing in this must-see show.