Extremities mines the thin line between violence and vengeance


Sexual assault issues are more in the public eye now than when William Mastrosimone wrote Extremities in 1978, but the play contains enough victim blaming, enough "she shouldn't have dressed so sexy," enough "I couldn't help myself" to keep the story frighteningly current.

Dark & Stormy doesn't shy away from the tough, and the young company loves to put the audience amid the action. This time out, a young woman turns the table on her attacker, but finds more accusations than sympathy.

The action unfolds in the living room of an isolated home in the early 1980s. Marjorie's average day takes a turn when a strange man enters the house. He claims to be looking for a friend, but his intentions are clear. Within minutes, he has forced the woman to the ground and is moments away from raping her. Marjorie's quick thinking — and a handy can of bug spray — turns the tables.

Her next choice brings thorny issues into play. Instead of getting help, Marjorie ties up her would-be rapist, locks him into the fireplace, and then starts to torture him. There's a noose. And ammonia. And a hammer.

Not surprisingly, Marjorie's roommates are shocked when they get home. Neither Terry nor Patricia is sure what to do. Patricia wants to let the cops and the courts take over. Marjorie senses that she has gone too far already, and that the law would do nothing except put her in jail and let her attacker go free.

Goaded by the manipulative Raul, the would-be rapist, they slowly turn on Marjorie. After all, she dresses provocatively around the house. And certainly she has eyes for Terry's boyfriend.

Director Mel Day and the four-actor company take an already taut drama and tighten it to almost unbearable levels. The intimate setting and the intense physical action (choreographed by fight master Annie Enneking) leave the audience with nowhere to hide.

As Marjorie, Sara Marsh is at turns full of rage, terror, and steely resolve. A lot of this is directed at Raul, masterfully played by James Rodriguez. The character oozes menace throughout, even when he is bound and chained in the fireplace.

The two of them are alone for the play's earliest, superior moments. The script loses some energy as Marjorie's two roommates enter the scene. Emily Bridges is convincing as the straight-and-narrow Patricia, especially when showcasing the doubt many women find when confronting their accusers in public. The character works because we sense there is more behind her than just this point of view.

The same isn't true of Tracey Maloney's Terry. Mastrosimone wanted to provide another view on rape, and that falls on Terry's shoulders. But Terry doesn't have much to do except share her Important Story, then cower while the other three go at it. Even someone as talented as Maloney can't make us care about her.

That misstep gets plowed under during the play's intense final scene, where Marsh and Rodriguez push their characters (and themselves) to the breaking point. There is no easy wrapping up here — just a haunting, unresolved end.