Lisa Barnes and Bill Tobes in Rapt
(Photo: Nancy Opitz)
Lisa Barnes and Bill Tobes in Rapt
(Photo: Nancy Opitz)
When a play opens with a man and a woman in a bedroom discussing a night of passion, it needs to offer a reason why these two people have begun their affair. But Rapt quickly abandons the couple in question, choosing instead to focus attention on a meeting between two people in a company's Human Resources division. Eventually, these two tales tie together but, by that time, most of the audience has lost interest.

Written and directed by Roland Tec, Rapt has its moments. The plot mostly concerns H.R. vice-president Suzanne; the character starts out as completely unlikable but, as the play progresses, actress Lisa Barnes shows the woman's vulnerable side and makes us care about her professional and personal struggles. Suzanne spends most of the play reviewing the job performance of Donald (Carl Palmer), an assistant in the H.R. department, as her thoughts drift between the two men in her personal life: her husband, Frank, and her art teacher, Leon.

Suzanne daydreams about her nighttime art class and, more specifically, about Leon, whom she believes can fulfill all of her desires. When she thinks of her husband, who is suffering from a degenerative disease, Rapt becomes a drama, but these scenes are ineffective because they somehow seem to be buried within the play. Tec's focus remains on Suzanne's meeting with Donald, which only gets stranger as she tells him to improve his job performance by taking fewer bathroom breaks. Given that Donald's habit of taking three such breaks per hour is a central but petty conflict during the first half of Rapt, it's hard to take the play's life and death issues seriously when they crop up later on.

Bill Tobes offers a strong performance as Frank, evoking sympathy in powerful monologues about his declining health. Though Leon the art teacher (played by Chris Arruda) is usually seen through Suzanne's longing eyes, the character does divulge to us directly his method of zeroing in on a woman in each of his classes and fooling her into believing that the class has changed her life. Meanwhile, a nude model for the class (Chris Pade) wanders the stage, observing without ever speaking.

The personal interactions of the play are more compelling than the odd business concerning the company. The influential Stryker (Tom Bozell) is revealed to be the man from the opening scene while Suzanne's assistant, Carly (Cori Lynn Campbell), turns out to be the mistress. The scenes between the lovers are the evening's dullest because these two are essentially bland, selfish people. As Suzanne draws an unwilling Donald into the couple's lives, the play seems to be trying to make a point about corruption in big business, but any such important statements are lost as Tec struggles to find his voice.

When Donald first arrives at his meeting, Suzanne hints that there's a problem with his performance but delays telling him exactly what that is. Rapt is likely to leave audience members just as baffled as Donald; the play would benefit from telling one absorbing story rather than three that fail to captivate.