Playwright: William Mastrosimone
At: Actors Workshop Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Phone: ( 773 ) 728-7529; $10
Runs Through: Jan. 9
BY SCOTT C. MORGAN
If Extremities debuted today, it would probably be marginalized as a niche property for the Lifetime or Oxygen cable networks for women. But when it debuted in 1982, William Mastrosimone's off-Broadway drama was timely and shocking.
Mastrosimone's drama about Marjorie, a woman who fights back and threatens to kill her attempted rapist, certainly jibed with many. It became a 1986 Farrah Fawcett movie, released the same year as The Ladies Club, which was about serial rapists who are castrated by former victims.
The gains made with the women's lib movement of the 1970s and growth of TV talk shows certainly contributed to make it more acceptable and empowering for women to discuss and speak out against rape. Alas, Extremities now feels like a dated 1980s relic in Actors Workshop Theatre's under-powered production.
Many of Mastrosimone's plot devices and dialogue seem alternately preachy and contrived. This is felt especially when Marjorie is criticized by her roommates for her flirty nature and skimpy clothing ( to mouth the unsavory viewpoint that a woman's dress and behavior encourages rape ) .
One problem with Actors Workshop Theatre's Extremities is its on-the-cheap production values. The show shares the same set with the theater's recently closed Life's Tremors, which does not feature the crucial fireplace where the rapist is trapped most of the play. Instead, the rapist does most of his manipulative pleading from behind a bicycle.
Director Gregory Gerhard also doesn't push the cast hard enough—they should be in an almost constant state of panic and hysteria for such a scenery-chewing play. Julie Griffith as Marjorie spars well enough with Johnny Garcia's forceful Raul, but they never feel that they're completely pushed to the edge.
As Marjorie's roommates, Laura Hooper does a better job at navigating the states of panic with confused negotiation as Patricia, while Laurie Koss' Terry isn't that believable or in the moment ( she does get her big 1980s bangs right, though ) .
Extremities inaugurates Actors Workshop Theatre's 'Toolbox Series,' which allows its ensemble members and students to hone their talents. So at $10 a ticket, Extremities won't break your bank and you should still have enough left over to pay your cable bill.