Lucrezia Vizzana was a 17th-century Italian nun who wrote music in secret because composition was forbidden under the Inquisition. Discovered at an early age to have a gift for writing music, but prevented from fully developing that gift by the restrictions of the convent, Rapture depicts a Lucrezia (Joy Fischer) who will be driven insane if she can't write down the music in her head. Her loving aunt Camilla (Paige Jones) breaks cloister and arranges for a male music teacher to sneak into the convent and help nurture Lucrezia's talent—a dangerous thing to do, as Inquisitors from Rome are lurking about, searching for excuses to disempower the uppity nuns populating the convent.
If a play about a cloistered nun composing religious music sounds boring, go with your gut: Rapture, as produced by the still-unproven new company Stumptown Stages, is one of the most unwatchable productions to grace a Portland stage in recent memory.
Jeanne Marshall's unwieldy script wraps itself in a 21st-century feminist rhetoric that has nothing whatsoever to do with the 17th-century convent where this production is set. The writing sets an embarrassingly chatty tone, asking the audience to believe that these Inquisition-era nuns were sassy ladies with a fondness for fart jokes, rather than women controlled by an oppressive and male-dominated religious system.
Actors Karen Boettcher-Tate as Lucrezia's nemesis nun Beatrice, and Tobias Andersen as a fatherly priest, try to insert some restraint into the production, but to no avail: The rest of the cast delivers their lines as though they were acting in The Sound of Music. But despite the presence of nuns, Rapture just isn't that kind of musical. It's not "fun." Seventeenth-century nun music is boring. Not to mention the fact that the audience is supposed to be able to distinguish between the "genius" compositions of Lucrezia and the officially sanctioned tunes, a distinction that proves impossible when all of the music sounds vaguely off-key.
If you need a goofy nun fix, rent Sister Act. Rapture falls flat, and the ticket price of $22 only adds insult to injury.