Extremities by Dark And Stormy Productions


* * * SPOILER ALERT * * *

It is impossible to write about William Mastrosimone‘s crudely effective Extremities (Dark & Stormy Productions, performing in the Grain Belt Warehouse, through Sept 19) without revealing crucial plot details. So if you’ve already made your rezzies or if you firmly plan to see this show (and why wouldn’t you? Extremities features performances by 4 outstanding Twin Cities actors: Sara Marsh, James Rodríguez, Tracey Maloney and Emily Bridges) read no further. Click on this link here.




James Rodríguez and Sara Marsh in Extremities.

James Rodríguez and Sara Marsh in Extremities. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Extremities portrays a brutal attempted rape and its frightening aftermath. A man (Rodríguez) walks into Marjorie (Marsh)’s house and after a few brief pleasantries begins to assault her sexually. “I’m gonna fuck you.” “Puta,” he says lovingly, using the Spanish obscenity. “I’m gonna cut you here, and here,” delicately running his finger across her face. “You like it, don’t you. Smile.” Marjorie interrupts this fatal (probably) attack by blinding the man with hairspray, taping his wrists and chaining him into the fireplace.

And now the real play begins.

Marjorie’s roomies/friends, Terry (Maloney) and Patricia (Bridges) arrive, see the man locked into place, and begin discussing what to do. Let’s call the cops. No, Marjorie asserts, he’d talk his way out of it (and come back to get me for real). The test would be negative; after all, he didn’t actually rape me. Everyone would (as do the friends) blame Marjorie. Look at this poor man, Terry and Patricia says, bent and blinded, cruelly lashed into the fireplace. Shouldn’t we take pity on him?

Was I supposed to have sympathy for this man? I didn’t. Would I have had more sympathy had I seen Extremities in the 1980s, when it was written? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think Mastrosimone wants to have it both ways: he wants to stage the shocking attack AND he wants us to take Terry and Patricia’s reservations seriously.

This didn’t work for me. I had seen what an evil and utterly despicable monster the man is (a fact reinforced by his confessing to other rapes and by the revelation that he’s carrying a concealed and vicious looking knife). I was thus way ahead of Terry and Patricia. I disliked this. I felt manipulated. Ultimately, the only real suspense in Extremities is: will we have to witness something ugly?

Still, director Mel Day elicits excellent performances from a stellar cast: Marsh (who is also D&S’s artistic director), with her quiet rage, ready at any moment to erupt into violence. Rodríguez with his dorky and diminutive – and very scary – savagery. Maloney shocked into wonderfully squeaky indecision, holding hersel steady, repeatedly backing against a wall. Only Patricia is jolted into real action, trying to reason through the situation. Bridges plays it beautifully, pacing and gesticulating, trying to convince her friends to let the monster loose.

Do they? Does the rapist get his comeuppance? See Extremities and find out.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book Tell Me A Story In The Dark has recently been published. His plays Sideways Stories From Wayside School and Art Dog have been scheduled by Childsplay Arizona and Salt Lake Acting Company, respectively. His screenplay A Slaying Song Tonight has been optioned. For more info, please visit John’s website.

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