BWW Review: EXTREMITIES - Also Known As Theatre
In 1982, Extremities, by playwright William Mastrosimone, premiered at Westside Arts in New York starring Susan Sarandon, and later the play was adapted into a movie starring Farrah Fawcett, the final actress to play the role of Marjorie in the Broadway production.
A New York Times critic was quoted in his review of the play as stating "William Mastrosimone's new play isn't called ''Extremities'' for nothing. It opens with a graphically depicted attempted rape and quickly moves on to a series of violent brawls featuring the malevolent slamming of hammers and shovels, the spilling of boiling water, and a grueling assortment of well-targeted kicks and bites." He goes on to state of the original Broadway production "All of which is to say that ''Extremities,'' which opened at the Westside Arts Center last night (in December of 1982), is not going to be everyone's idea of a night out. Yet this play, which was originally produced at the Louisville Actors Theater, does exert a fascination that may keep those with strong stomachs riveted for some of the way. That fascination has less to do with the quality of the writing than it does with the quality of the production".
Likewise, the same holds true for this production which opened Thursday night at the First Church in Cambridge, MA, superbly directed by Alexandra Smith, leading a strong cast of actors, this production enhances what could otherwise be a very one dimensional play. Featuring; Alissa Cordeiro as Marjorie, Padraig Sullivan as Joe, Srin Chakrovorty as Terry, and Amanda Dane as Patricia. The cast explores the concept of the burden of proof faced by a victim of an attempted rape, and the ability of a sleazy and misogynistic hardened criminal, with the experience of a jail house lawyer, to manipulate his victim and her roommates. Given his history, later revealed in the play, he has a successful track record of cheating the justice system to his benefit. It is important to bear in mind, in 1982 a rape victim's sexual history was still admissible in court. As Marjorie states "before they believe a woman in court, she has to be dead on arrival." It is in the context of this 1982 time capsule, and this premise alone, that allows today's audience to accept the roomates inaction, in not immediately reporting the crime.
The play begins with Marjorie at home alone, opening the front door and promptly being stung by a wasp, in her anger she grabs a can of wasp spray and hoses the wasp until it is dead. But having sprayed so much spray she is gagging, and so she leaves the door ajar to air out the smell. She then puts the can down on the coffee table next to her couch. Almost immediately, Joe rushes through the door yelling for a friend who supposedly lives there. Marjorie, sensing danger, tells him that no man lives there, except her husband and then tells Joe he must leave. He then changes his story and says he needs to use her phone, she refuses, and again tells him to leave, he again refuses and so she yells for her imaginary husband. Joe sensing she is lying then joins her in yelling for her husband to expose her lie. He then rips the phone from the wall rendering it useless, and proceeds to terrorize her, forcing her to sit on the couch and holding a pillow over her face to cut off air flow until she agrees to repeat phrases of love and adoration and make her touch him and embrace him. He then tells her to touch him "down there" and intimates he will rape her. Seeing no escape, she then embraces him one final time, to distract him, as she grabs the wasp spray and sprays it in his mouth and eyes immediately incapacitating him. She then moves quickly to find rope and tie him up and uses her robe belt to blindfold him, and uses his belt and rope to create a choke collar around his neck to control him. She then forces him into the fire place and chains her bicycle to the fireplace to lock him in. Now the tables are turned, and she proceeds to torture and torment him, as she looks for an outlet for her anger, rage, and fear. Over the next hours her roommates return home and the three argue about; killing him, helping him by buying medicine to treat his wounds, and whether to call the authorities. The sticking point is whether Marjorie will be believed to be a victim, or a scorned woman guilty of assault and torture. The play is really more about people's reaction to rape and the stigma's that various segments of society place on the victims. The fear of not being believed the fear of being accused of "asking for it" by virtue of how they act or dress, and the often sickly cavalier approach that the justice system takes toward dealing with rapists, looking everywhere for blame, "but at" the actual rapist, the perpetrator of the crime.
Alissa Cordeiro as Marjorie, is excellent as the sympathetic victim, and as later as the strong vengeful woman, you want to root for, as she attempts to bring her own brand of vigilante justice to bear on her attacker. The depth and range she brought to the character of Marjorie far exceeds and enhances what the playwright gave her to work with. She is riveting to watch throughout every scene.
Srin Chakrovorty as Terri is particularly convincing in her beautifully delivered monologue where she describes being raped as a young child, and being convinced it was her fault for how she dressed. She is also convincing in her interaction with her roommates and Joe, which causes shifting allegiances throughout the play as she struggles with repressed memories and with being a people pleaser.
Amanda Dane is well cast, and shined as Patricia. Her Patricia, is the picture perfect model of an uptight liberal "by the rule book" Social Worker. She gets so caught up in the rules and being fair to both the victim and the accused, and feeling sorry for Joe and his injuries that she loses sight of the fact that Marjorie is the true victim, and what is at stake for her, until they discover Joe has a hidden knife, and admits he came to rape and possibly murder all three roommates. Her world then slowly falls apart, and her silent crying is both believable and heart wrenchingly sad.
Padraig Sullivan as Joe turned in a menacing and malevolent performance. In this 90 minute production, with no intermission he never leaves the stage and yet he is able to sustain a strong presence even when his is not the focus of the scene without upstaging the other actors. He is at once the attacker and then in a nano-second he is able to believe himself the victim, even comparing his capture and treatment to the trials of Jesus Christ, and he is able evoke sympathy from each of the ladies in turn. Joe is a master manipulator and Mr. Sullivan is excellent at using whatever emotion necessary to keep the upper hand, deflect blame, and divide the loyalties of the roommates.
In the end it is the direction, and the actors' performances, that make this an engaging evening of intimate theatre. Go see it!.
Photo Credit: Ashley Yung
Also Known As Theatre is grateful for the multifaceted partnership of the Boston Area Rape
Crisis Center (BARCC) on this production, which will provide in-rehearsal consultation, a
post-show guest speaker, and takeaway resource materials for audience members.
March 28-April 13, 2019, in Margaret Jewett Hall at First Church Harvard Square, 11
Garden Street in Cambridge, MA
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm
Post-show discussions to follow Friday performances
March 29: Crafting Artful Violence with Fight Choreographer Jessica Scout
April 5: Survivor Resource Discussion with representatives from the Boston Area
Rape Crisis Center
April 12: Local Advocacy with representatives from the Cambridge Women's Commission
Ticketing website: www.bit.ly/akaextremities
General Admission: $22
Playwright: William Mastrosimone
Director: Alexandra Smith
Producer: Kelly Smith
Cast: Srin Chakravorty (Terry), Alissa Cordeiro (Marjorie), Amanda Dane (Patricia), and
Padraig Sullivan (Joe)
Stage Manager: Karlie Fitzgerald
Fight Choreographer: Jessica Scout Malone
Props Designer: Erin McCarthy
Costume Designer: Heather Oshinsky
Lighting Consultation: Hunker McKee, Ben Moll
Fireplace Construction: Ben Lieberson
ABOUT ALSO KNOWN AS THEATRE
Also Known As Theatre produces plays that ask, "Who were you before society told you who
you were supposed to be?" We present stories that explore the performative nature of
person-to-person interactions, and characters who exemplify the tension between social
expectations and the essential self: Sometimes courageous, sometimes cowardly, always
deeply human. Life--also known as theatre. Also Known As Theatre is committed to partnering
with like-minded community organizations to deepen the conversations and discoveries sparked
by our work.
Extremities by William Mastrosimone, directed by Alexandra Smith, March 28-April 13,
2019, at Margaret Jewett Hall in First Church Harvard Square, Cambridge.
In the Forest, She Grew Fangs by Stephen Spotswood, directed by Kelly Smith,
November 16-December 2, 2018, at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA.
A Good Death by Shelley M. Hobbs, directed by Alexandra Smith, August 16-September 2, 2018, at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA.
Hannah by Kelly Smith (staged reading), directed by James Peter Sotis, April 30, 2018
at the Democracy Center, Cambridge.
A Good Death by Shelley M. Hobbs (staged reading), directed by Alexandra Smith,
November 20, 2017, at the Democracy Center, Cambridge.