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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
By Elyse Sommer
The Off-Broadway run of Extremities was successful enough to require multiple cast changes. Karen Allen, the director of the Berkshire Theatre Group's current revival followed Susan Sarandon and Farah Fawcett on Stage (Fawcett also starred in the film). It would be nice to say, that stories of women being raped and not finding a small measure of closure courtesy of an effective justice system, have made this revival something of a dated antique.
Unfortunately, while women have continued to gain ground in moving into top tier careers, they continue to be brutalized by rapists. What's more, the justice system still fails to put all too many of their assailants behind bars. The statistics to prove it: 2.8 of every 1000 people were rape victims; today that figure has jumped to 4 out every 1000. Surely some thoughtful playwright must be working on a drama about the long overdue attention being given to unpunished rapes (of men as well as women).
In the meantime, bringing back this more than 30-year-old play, serves its purpose in bringing audiences face to face with the horror of rape, and as devastating, the way the subsequent fear and anger can turn victim into as scary a victimizer as the perpetrator. Director Karen Allen has squeezed every ounce of tension from the script and helped the actors to bring their characters to reasonably nuanced life.
It's a bit disappointing than the Berkshire Theater Group's artistic producer and CEO Kate Maguire hasn't included any new plays in her summer 2013 season, with two old thrillers (the '20s Agatha Christie-esqe The Cat and the Canary concludes the Unicorn season. But I suppose it makes business sense since thrillers are a favorite summertime "good read."
While Extremities has no cops or private eyes, this is very much a keep-'em-on-the-edge-of-the-seat-thriller. It revolves around a young woman who manages to turn her attacker into her prisoner and the mystery hinges on how she will deal with him and, as importantly, with the rage that engulfs her. There's also the added cache of lending itself to post-show discussion about still current issues and the potential for violence in ordinary people rather than just psychopaths.
The struggle between Marjorie (Molly Camp) and the creepy Raul (James McMenamin) who's been stalking her into an unnervingly up close face-to-face. Even though it's pretty predictable that Marjorie, being the main character, will somehow get the best of Raul Still Allen's staging of that scene abetted by Fight Choreographer Lisa Kopitsky, is so visceral that it's riveting but painful to watch. Sets, lighting, sound and costumes are also top notch.
Actually the extremities that follow that big fight scene that make for the most interesting revelations about the complexities of human behavior. There's the building tension between Marjorie and her roommates, Terry (Kelly McCreary) and Patricia (Miriam Silverman). There are also Terry and Patricia's reactions to and interchanges with the depraved but sly Raul.
Camp plays the exhausting role of Marjorie with commendable subtlety so that we see a somewhat restless and bored young woman, become a numbed but semi-crazed judge and jury of her attacker — and a scary stranger to her roommates. In a clever bit of metaphoric foreshadowing, Ms. Allen shows Marjorie not just nabbing the wasp that stung her, but taking some satisfaction out of giving it a double kill extra squeeze.
McMenamin is aptly creepy as the manipulative monster who'll say or do anything to get out of the life and death fix he finds himself in. His vocal projection is often less than clear, even in this small theater.
McCreary and Silverman, do the best they can with less than fully developed characters. This is especially true of McCreary's Terry who's stuck with a somewhat too sudden revelation coloring her own reaction to Marjorie's victim-cum-conqueror transformation. While the long-ish wordless scene leading up to Raul's entrance is paced just right, the picture of Marjorie's restlessness is also a bit sketchy and some of her actions — like leaving the door unlocked when the house is obviously not on a busy street— adds to the credibility stretching aspects of Mastriosimone's script. There's also dialogue that's not exactly in the sharp one liner tradition of thriller dramas for example Marjorie's imperious commands to her roommates: "No talking to this animal. He's mine."
By the time this exhausting drama of what happens to that "animal" winds to its exhausting conclusion, the end of the cat and mouse game will hardly come as a surprise. And we're likely to be exhausted about all that punishing and bullying to care all that much about any of these women. If they remain roommates, it's a sure bet that they'll keep their car and house doors locked.