He’s Asking For It: “Extremities”

Photo credit: Ashley Yung; Alissa Cordeiro (Marjorie)

Presented by Also Known As Theatre
In partnership with Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (barcc)
By William Matrosimone
Directed by Alexandra Smith
Fight choreography by Jessica Scout Malone

March 28 – April 13, 2019
First Church Cambridge
11 Garden St.,
Cambridge, MA 02138

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning: assault, sexual assault, gas lighting, victim blaming

(Cambridge, MA) It’s a cruel and unusual punishment to be found at guilty of assault when protecting oneself from attacker. Cyntoia Brown served 15 years in prison for murdering a man who bought her for sex so she could flee. At 16 years old, she was tried her as an adult and sentenced to 51 years in prison without parole. She has only recently received clemency for her unreasonably harsh and unjust sentencing. Also Known As Theatre’s production of Extremities puts into stark relief just how easy it is for the US legal system to turn on women for not performing victimhood to exacting standards. Brown is receiving a modicum of justice but how many women will not?

Extremities is categorized as a thriller but it is more accurate to call it a horror fantasy. It might be thrilling to some, but for victim’s of assault or rape, it could be a triggering reminder of past trauma. Rape isn’t a concept up for debate; it is a fact of life for many women. Audiences are advised to please watch with caution.

September, 1980. Marjorie (Alissa Cordeiro) is set to have a quiet day at home when Joe (Padraig Sullivan) enters her home without invitation. He  dismantles the phone, assaults Marjorie and nearly rapes her until she forcefully subdues him. He becomes her captive while she susses out what to do with him before the police arrive. Housemates Terry (Srin Chakrovorty) and Patricia (Amanda Dane) return home and don’t know what to believe. Extremities is a story explaining in graphic detail how society still favors men even if a woman stands her ground in her own home.

The play is heavily laden with fight choreography. A great deal of trust and dexterity is required from the roles of Marjorie and Joe in order to execute their assaults. Both Cordeiro and Sullivan demonstrate restraint and flexibility while executing complicated staging under the scrutinizing gaze of the audience. They aren’y easy to watch. Assault shouldn’t be, but it was helpful to know what the actors were supporting each other through it all.  

Chakrovorty and Dane supply necessary levity to the production. Chakrovorty delivers zingy one-liners and bust through the tension. Dane’s offers sympathy in stark contrast against Joe’s sociopathic ramblings. They are the adults in the room and they don’t know how to preserve the situation either.  

Ben Lieberson’s fireplace looked real. It fit’s in the space as if it’s been there for years.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this show. I don’t think Extremities is the kind of play one is supposed to find entertaining. Yet, it is important storytelling. It is feminist and courageous. It honors the survival of others by offering an alternative ending to an all to common conclusion.

In addition to assault, Extremities contains victim blaming, gas lighting, and graphic depiction of past rape. Also Known As Theatre is working with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) on this production. There are resources provided by the theatre in the space for attendees who feel triggered by the performance. BARCC runs a 24/7 hotline: 877.841.8371. Please take good care of yourself.

The moral of Extremities is this: if Joe didn’t want to be wrangled like a calf and tortured in a homemade oubliette, he shouldn’t have entered Marjorie’s home without permission. It was his fault for so provocatively flaunting his unbound arms and legs in her home when she had rope in her cabinet. What did Joe think will happen? He was asking for it.  

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