Rapture’ at the Unicorn Deserves Your Full Attention

The struggle to find one’s place in this world is a topic that never gets old, and it’s one that has fueled many books, movies and plays. And of all such struggles, the ones that deal with religion perhaps hit closest to home for many of us. This is a world that has always had an awkward relationship with religion, and if anything, it is getting more awkward every year. The final show of the season at the Unicorn presents a unique twist on this archetypal battle.

Everyday Rapture, which runs through June 10, has been described as a “one-woman show with four people,” and that’s a pretty apt description. Part cabaret show, part series of monologues, this is a semi-autobiographical story of Sherie Rene Scott, a girl from Topeka, Kan., who is being pulled in two directions — between her struggle to be faithful to her Mennonite upbringing and her desire to be famous.

Scot describes being a Mennonite as “Amish lite,” but there is still a huge emphasis on modesty and an equally huge disapproval of being prideful. Unfortunately for her, she has the soul of a performer and feels an insatiable desire to be famous. When it comes time for her Rumspringa (the tradition among Amish and Mennonites to let young adults go wild for a year before returning to the flock), she flees to New York and tries not to look back.

In order to really appreciate the story, the audience needs to be able to understand the many references to Kansas, New York and show business. Some people may find the show to be somewhat cryptic in spots. Careening among Judy Garland, Fred Phelps, Mister Rogers, Mennonite theology, YouTube, and Broadway culture, including shows such as Aida and Wicked, it requires your full attention and a rather large knowledge of contemporary America.

However, even if you don’t understand everything that she’s talking about, the core issue comes through beautifully, and it is illustrated in many engaging ways. One of the more clever themes in the play is Scot’s relationship with her two “Pastor Freds” – Fred Phelps and Fred Rogers. Each Fred represents a part of her upbringing and wonderfully symbolizes her struggle between being insignificant and being special. Likewise, her triple meaning of the famous “WWJD” abbreviation are a nice illustration of what tugs at her heart.

Katie Gilchrist plays Scot, and it’s a good choice. Having seen her burlesque shows, I know she is no stranger to commanding a stage. She has a charisma and a vulnerability that make her struggle really resonate. Christina Burton and Chioma Anyanwu are the backup singers (wryly called the Mennonettes), and they are fun to watch, being both a support and a counterpoint to Scot’s story. The fourth actor in this one-woman show is Bryan LaFave, who plays a flamboyantly gay teenager who gives Scot her first taste of fandom – and then knocks her pride down in a way that her church never could. LaFave is humorously realistic as a prematurely cynical, yet still naive, gay kid with his own narcissistic feelings of self-importance.

Everyday Rapture may not be the most easily accessible of the shows the Unicorn put on this season, but the humanity and honesty of the story shine through brightly; there is a lesson here that everyone can appreciate. It’s a unique show for a unique time.
“Everyday Rapture” runs through June 10 at the Unicorn Theatre. For tickets, go to www.unicorntheatre.org or call the box office at 816-531-7529.

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