Loud Fridge Theatre Group roars into inaugural season with scathing drama 'Ripped'
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, January 22, 2023
It’s freshman year at Berkeley and San Diego transplant Lucy is ready to get her future started. Then, the unthinkable happens. Ripped, a story of sexual assault - or is it really about consent? - delves into the very fabric of what the audience knows and believes, what has really happened, and what it means in its San Diego debut with Loud Fridge Theatre Group, running through February 5 at OnStage Playhouse.
Written by local playwright Rachel Bublitz and co-directed by Kate Rose Reynolds and John Wells III, Ripped stars Amira Temple as Lucy, a college freshman who finds herself awakening in her friend Jared’s bed with clothes torn and on the floor and an empty bottle of vodka nearby, just moments before Jared walks back into the room (Marcel Ferrin). In a disconcerting twist, the story toggles back in time to a few months before, where we meet Lucy’s high school boyfriend, Bradley (Devin Wade). Through this nonlinear storytelling, structurally bouncing the audience back and forth in time, we unearth three very different viewpoints on a series of events and, in doing so, examine the gray space in perception and reality.
Delivered in 80 minutes without intermission, the trio of actors present this powerful play with breathtaking care, and intimacy director Kandace Crystal has had her work cut out for her. As the time frame changes, we watch body language, facial expressions, and relational dynamics between the three characters shift; friendly banter and physical comfort exist in one instant but add a temporal shift, and suddenly we see reticence or unexpected tension. This is conveyed by the performers through minute movements: where one actor’s hand touches another’s shoulder or thigh, or how their head tilts toward or away from their scene partner. It is clear, from an audience perspective, that a significant amount of time has gone into building a safe space for the performers to co-construct this story.
And construct they have! Told on a stark gray stage with a couple of well placed scenic shifts designed by Alyssa Kane (a bedroom on one side features a dual-sided comforter which is used to indicate Lucy and Jared’s separate bedrooms, a stoop mid-stage is used to create an impression of being outdoors near the college, and a bench seat and tree facades at the far end stand in for the interior of Bradley’s truck in San Diego), the production nevertheless never lacks in intimacy.
Temple in particular is called upon for some serious character work as she tackles Lucy’s different emotional states (and overt sexual assault) onstage. A college student herself at San Diego State University, Temple exquisitely navigates this range just feet from the audience, finding beats of contemplation, inebriation, and romantic entanglement like a seasoned pro.
Ferrin and Wade similarly bring their characters to life with profound depth; not only do I believe in their characterizations, but in turn, even empathize with each of them. This is the unexpected impact of Ripped; as the show progresses, somehow what you expect to be a condemnation emerges as an interrogation of your belief system and what you accept as true. It is raw and gripping and devastating in turn.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge the contributions by other designers associated with this project. The ever-shifting balances of light and shadow (Kevin “Blax” Burroughs) and date projections (Estefania Ricalde) help establish the spaces in which we are forced to reckon with this story. Birds, car engines, voicemail recordings, and vacuums are built into a complex sound plot in which directionality and volume matter, and are perfectly executed (Brianna Wing). Intentionally placed costumes and props become key clues to the story as it progresses (Emily Carter and William BJ Robinson). Kane’s set, built by Anthony Garcia, brings a linear simplicity to the stage that facilitates the temporal transitions for the viewer.
Ripped is a ride that, in many ways, we desperately want to get off of while, on the other hand, we know how important it is to stick it out. Loud Fridge writes in the program that the script asks us “to examine our beliefs and our reactions,” “ask questions but not offer answers,” and consider “burdens of blame and responsibility.”
If those are the markers, the objective has been achieved. In staging this contemporary drama as its inaugural show, Loud Fridge Theatre Group has effectively brought the loud - and quiet contemplation - all at the same time.
Ripped runs through February 5 at Chula Vista’s OnStage Playhouse. Tickets are available through Loud Fridge Theatre Group.