'Extremities' captures the audience's attention
December 06, 2005
Deseret Morning News
By Susan Whitney
EXTREMITIES, Dumke Student Theatre, Westminster College, 1250 E. 1700 South, continues Thursday through Saturday, $10 at the door (benefit for Rape Recovery Center of Salt Lake City). Running time: one hour, 45 minutes (one intermission).
As "Extremities" begins, a young woman named Marjorie is hanging out - drying her hair, watering the plants, doing nothing special - in the home she rents with two other young women. Her roommates are at work.
At one point, Marjorie takes something out to the garbage and leaves the front door open, and a young man slips into her living room. He stares at her for a few seconds before she realizes he's there. Sitting in the audience, watching him as he watches her, you really don't like the look on his face. Without realizing it, you begin to hold your breath.
In bringing this play, written by William Mastrosimone, to Westminster College, executive director Michael Vought and producer Tommie St. Cyr and director Ric Kirschner made a good choice.
It was first performed in the early 1980s and was made into a movie in the mid-'80s. By bringing "Extremities" to a college campus more than 20 years after it was written, the Westminster directors remind us that not a lot has changed when it comes to prosecuting rape.
As the stranger locks the door, he toys with Marjorie, pretending to believe she might have a husband upstairs asleep. Then he throws her to the floor and toys with her some more, even as he begins to assault her. He smothers her and screams at her, in between commanding her to kiss him and tell him she loves him. The scene is vicious and vulgar and difficult to watch.
The audience couldn't be happier when she gets free of him and ties him up. Nor do we care that she hurts him in the process. But then he points out to her that she has no physical proof that he was going to rape her, whereas he has injuries that could get her charged with assault. He will go free, he promises, and he will come back for her.
Erica Lynn Johnson does a nice job with the role of Marjorie. She can do "terrified" as well as "tough" as well as "barely controlled sanity."
Colin Crebs plays the assailant. Shannon McLean is Terry, Marjorie's naive roommate. Brittani Rufener is Patty, the roommate who seems to have majored in psychology. Patty wants to let everyone, including the rapist, have a say in what should happen to him.
These three are more obviously student actors but still good enough in their roles. The acting doesn't have to be professional to make this production convincing. In fact, there is something inherently convincing about the actors just because of their ages. The women look like they could be roommates - three very different people who have kept their frustrations with each other hidden until now.
Another nice touch: Westminster's new Dumke Theatre is the perfect size for a play like this. "Extremities" demands an intimate space. You need to feel like you are in the room with the three women as they begin to argue about what to do with the intruder.
Patty and Terry didn't see what happened. They don't share the audience's revulsion. You want to grab them and tell them to be very afraid of this man. On the other hand, you eventually start to wonder what Marjorie was like before this assault. Mastrosimone's script makes you think about the point of no return.
Somewhere in the second act, you might just find that you are still not breathing deeply. You might need to remind yourself to relax. Yes, this is only a student production, but you can get completely caught up in it.
Sensitivity rating: There is no nudity only because the attack is thwarted. Still, this play contains a very gritty sexual assault scene and plenty of profanities.