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Extremities
Dark & Stormy Productions

Also see Arty's review of Becoming Dr. Ruth


James Rodriguez, Emily Bridges, Sara Marsh, and Tracey Maloney
Extremities, William Mastrosimone's gut wrenching 1982 play about rape, justice, and the victim-perpetrator relationship, is now being given a high-octane mounting by Dark & Stormy Productions. Performed in the most intimate of spaces, with the audience within arm's reach of the physical and emotional violence portrayed, it is hard to imagine anyone unmoved by the power of the performances, or unshaken by the tough questions the play raises.

Directed by Mel Day with the fervor of an anxiety attack, Extremities opens in a farmhouse shared by three single friends, Marjorie, Terry and Patricia. Marjorie is getting a slow start to her morning while Terry and Patricia are at work. An intruder, Raul, appears, intent on raping Marjorie. Before he can succeed, Marjorie manages, against all odds, to turn the tables on Raul. She binds him up and mulls her options, while meting out her own form of brutality to Raul, whom she calls "animal."

Terry, then Patricia arrive home from work, and they, too, are drawn into the maelstrom. On one hand is their regard for the terror Marjorie experienced and concern for their mutual protection, convinced by Marjorie that, lacking evidence of a rape not fully enacted, calling the police will not ensure their safety, let alone justice. On the other hand, Terry and Patricia are appalled by the degree to which Marjorie has taken on the characteristics of her assailant, and even fall prey to the mindset that a raped woman must in some way have encouraged the aggressor. As much as the danger unites them, it seems even more to drive them apart.

In the flash of 85 minutes, all this happens, leading to an outcome both remarkable and perplexing ... perplexing in that it raises as many questions as it answers. What will happen next to each of these characters? How will the three woman be changed moving forward, and what will become of their friendship, after the venom they have unleashed toward each other? What price are we willing to pay to protect ourselves from bodily and psychic violence?

The close quarters of the theater set-up in Studio 201 at the Grain Belt Warehouse place the audience on top of the action, giving us a sense of our own inability to bring a halt to the brutality. The four actors each give amazing performances that create real, recognizable people. Sara Marsh portrays Marjorie as a woman who began the day indifferently, was shocked into a struggle for her very life, and then cannot see any way to put the brakes on her own runaway violence. Yet, at moments we do see her reflect, step back as if watching herself with amazement at what she is capable of.

As cunningly played by James Rodriguez, Raul, loathsome though he be, convincingly demonstrates a gift for gab, ability to feign good manners, and to play himself as a victim to manipulate his quarries, and, to be honest, the audience. Tracey Maloney gives Terry a somewhat dim patina, easily turned against her friend by Raul's glib chatter, until she reveals a wound that explains her own need to be dismissive of Marjorie's plight. Emily Bridges imbues social worker Patricia with the problem-solving mentality of someone accustomed to dealing with bad hands dealt to the unfortunate, only to crumble when she recognizes that the stakes are hers as well.

The set is a living room shared by young adults who cobble together furnishings, pleasant, yet lacking a sense of permanent home. The women's costumes are emblematic of each character's daily routines.

Fight choreographer Annie Enneking's name appears on playbills in Twin Cities theaters perhaps more often than any single artist in our community. In Extremities, she outdoes herself in guiding the struggle between Marjorie and Raul, creating violence that seems to hold back no bars. I doubt I was alone in holding my breath during these scenes.

Extremities was presented in 1982 in a celebrated Off-Broadway mounting starring Susan Sarandon, replaced by Farah Fawcett and then Karen Allen. Between the vividly enacted narrative, hotly contested questions raised, and starry casting, Extremities received lots of attention. One would hope to say it was a play of its time, after a decade when women's issues were newly emerging, the rights and dignity of women being championed on a mass scale for the first time. Tragically, it remains a play for this time. One need only watch the evening news. The revelations of the difficulties in curbing violence against women in such hallowed institutions as universities, professional sports team, and the United States armed forces assures us that, much as we wish for Extremities to be a slice of our recent history, it speaks—no, screams—to today."

Extremities continues through September 19, 2015, presented by Dark & Stormy Productions in partnership with Artspace at the Grain Belt Warehouse, 77 13th Avenue N.E, Studio 201, Minneapolis, Tickets: $25.00 - $30.00, under age 30 tickets: $1`5.00. For tickets call 612-401-4506 or go to darkstormy.org.

Written by William Mastrosimone; Director: Mel Day; Costume Design: Lisa Jones; Lighting Design: Mary Shabatura; Props Design: Sarah Holmberg; Fight Choreographer: Annie Enneking; Technical and Design Consultant: Michael James; Stage Manager: Jared Ziegler; Production Assistant: Jeremy Ellarby; Producers: Frances Wilkinson and Jennifer Melin Miller

Cast: Emily Bridges (Patricia), Tracey Maloney (Terry), Sara Marsh (Marjorie) James Rodriguez (Raul)


Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp


- Arthur Dorman


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