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Play About Addicted Mom Opens

October 6, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ ``’Til the Rapture Comes″ is an affecting play _ in spite of itself.

The play, which opened Tuesday at the off-Broadway WPA Theater, is about a family scarred by a mother’s drug addiction. Unlike ``How I Learned to Drive,″ a play about incest in a Southern family, where every word counted, here the writing is diffuse.

Author Edward Napier has written some sparkling scenes, especially one in which the wife, Althea, imitates two of her husband Wilbur’s sisters.

Though his writing is uneven, Napier manages to make the audience care about his people. Pamela Payton Wright plays Althea, a nurse who is addicted to pills she started taking for depression. She repeatedly drives Wilbur to the brink of leaving her, by passing out and making wild accusations of infidelity. Then she charms him again. The day after she passes out, she apologizes to each person in the household; each apology ends in a loud argument. Payton Wright makes this emotional turmoil credible.

Jase Blankfort plays 11-year-old Ian who has taken refuge in religion. The first scenes contain much Bible quoting and profanity. Most of the swearing comes from volatile, teen-age Willie, played by Zack Shaffer. He harangues his mother for her drugging then, when his father comes home, defends her. Cynthia Darlow plays a feisty, Bible-thumping maid named Petunia.

Wilbur explains that he has sought many kinds of medical and psychiatric help for his wife. Throughout the play, she is coping or not coping, using promises to pull herself together. And at the end of the play, her final pledge to do better is just another empty promise.

Pamela Berlin directed well on a deep set designed by Vicki Davis, with a kitchen in front and living room behind on the small stage.

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