Theatre is meant to be entertaining, shocking, revealing, and oh so many more things as well. Comedies delight the senses and tickle the mind. Tragedies make souls fear and cry for humanity. A good drama will stop your breath and push you to the edge of your seat. The most amazing plays will have people love it, hate it, or talk about it afterwards. Even better ones will do all three at once. Extremities by William Mastrosimone is one such amazing play. To be blatantly honest Extremities is a magnificent play about a terrible subject. Yet done well this play can move anyone to action.
Mastrosimone wrote this play in the span of one day. In the back part of the script for Extremities are the director notes simply entitled the Making of Extremities. In this section he explains his motives for writing the play. He had met a woman in 1978, he gives her the name Mary, who had been raped and beaten by a 19 year old burglar turned rapist, and she was 55. She talked to him about what had happened and he left her, and went home. He followed her case. The prosecutor was able to prove there was a rape, but they were not able to prove the guy, who Mary identified and they caught the next day, was the one to do the crime. They let him go. Mastrosimone serendipitously ran into Mary again later on, this time at an airport. She was leaving for the other side of the country. Again she confided in the author. She told him that the day the trial ended she stood on the courthouse steps, the perpetrator walked up behind her and said, “You think that was bad, wait until next time.” This ruined her life. She lost her friends, her job and could no longer stay in her home and city. She also confided one other detail. She told him that there was one moment after which he had already raped her, he reached for some cigarettes on the side table. In that moment she could have done something to try to escape, she did nothing, and he came back and raped her again, grabbed a lamp and then beat her with it. Mary admitted she wished she had done something instead of lying there petrified. She also said that, “If she had five minutes in a locked room with him…” Mastrosimone wrote Extremities to fill in where she trailed off (Mastrosimone 65-66). A startling account at the least. Very few rapes are reported and even few are talked about in this detail outside of the police stations and courtrooms. Not very many people want to talk about this subject, not the victims and not the public. This is precisely why Extremities is such an important play.
A great deal of research was done in order to create a fitting setting and give proper justice to the play. Mastrosimone spent time following cases and in courtrooms, reading actions and watching reactions between all parties involved (Mastrosimone 67). He even asked a defense attorney how he would get a rapist off, the lawyer responded that he would put as many women on the jury as possible because they will tear the victim apart in order to protect their own sanity, while men will become the white knight and the hero (Mastrosimone 67-68). Everything Mastrosimone did while writing this play was in order to create a play that honors the victims of sexual assault with an accurate look at this crime.
The show that was put on by Pikes Peak Community College did a wonderful job with this portrayal. Sarah Shaver, the head of the Theatre Department, taught a theatre appreciation class and she taught this play. One student made the comment that this play was outdated and rape never happens anymore. This shocked Sarah so much she knew the school had to do the play. Our production was put on in the small black box at the Springs Ensemble Theatre for two weekends only. The show was an hour and forty five minutes including the intermission. The size of the theatre meant that only about fifty people could attend the show a night, and that the action of the play was literally right at their feet. The first ten minutes set the stage for the rest of the play. In these ten minutes a man, Raul, barges into the house of a woman, Marjorie, and then violently tries to rape her. This scene is very violent and there are many graphic points, no actual nudity, but it does get close (Shaver). In this show’s past there have been people who have rushed on stage to try and stop Raul, people have screamed, and they have walked out (Mastrosimone 69). During our production there were several people who wanted to get up and stop Raul, including the parents of Charlie, the one playing Raul. There were people that later in the play wanted to get up and stop Marjorie from trying to kill Raul with a hammer (Shaver). It went both ways. No one screamed during the show but during the talkbacks after each one there were emotions that came up with audience members where this hit far too close to home. We did have a walk out in the first scene though. On April 10th near almost the end of the first scene, a woman ran out followed by her husband. Out in the lobby the woman was crying very hard, her husband went up to Sarah and told her that they were sorry, they couldn’t stay, it wasn’t the plays fault, and it was just too good.
This play has touched lives from before it was a full thought in Mastrosimone’s mind. No matter which of the four characters you identify with, this play makes you question what you know about justice, retribution, and the physical and emotional train wreck that follows a violent crime such as rape. Personally I was thrilled to play Marjorie in this spectacular show. Being involved in this felt so amazing and that we were able to share this show with our community. Shows with this strong of a message should be shared, hated, loved, and remembered forever.
Mastrosimone, William. Extremities: A Play in Two Acts. London: S. French, 1985. Print.
Shaver, Sarah, prod. Extremities. Dir. Aaron Jennejahn. Perf. Elizabeth Boucher et al. Colorado Springs, Colorado. 10-12, 17-19 Apr. 2014. Performance.