The first time I read Extremities I kind of fell in love with it. It’s always difficult to find truly interesting characters written for women. So often we are in the mix simply to support the plethora of complex male characters. But here is a play with not just one but three different female perspectives exploring a rather important issue – rape. What I found surprising was how long ago it was written (1982), and how it is still a very relevant piece. Sure, in some ways perhaps we’ve made progress when it comes to rape culture, but when you see some of the reactions to, say, the Steubenville case just a year ago – lamentations over the ruined lives of the rapists and shaming the 16 year-old victim – it really doesn’t seem like we’ve made much progress at all.
Consider how difficult it still is for a woman to prove she was raped. The fact that there are still plenty of people, astoundingly many of them women, who think the way a woman dresses or behaves somehow has bearing on whether it was really rape – proves this story still needs to be told.
Molotov Theatre Group’s production of Extremities runs through November 3rd on the District of Columbia (DCAC) stage in Adams Morgan. For those unfamiliar with the show, a man comes to a remote farmhouse planning to attack a woman while her housemates are out. In the taut opening scenes, the would-be victim manages to turn the tables on her attacker and lock him in the fireplace. When her housemates come home tensions are high and tempers flare as the attacker pits them against each other, while they decide what to do next.
Now, I’ve played many different characters in my time – even those that would be considered villains – but this role has been perhaps the most difficult for me. I firmly believe even if a woman chooses to parade around full on naked in front of a man it doesn’t make it okay for him to force her to have sex against her will. So, I have a lot of trouble understanding otherwise decent people who think a man just can’t help himself, and, therefore, it’s not really his fault. Frankly, I find that line of thinking insulting to men – that they are somehow unable to control themselves if they become sexually stimulated; It’s ridiculous and dehumanizing. Obviously, I wouldn’t encourage going around naked, but it certainly doesn’t excuse rape or attempted rape. The idea that a woman is in any way to blame or “asking for it” is entirely repulsive to me. It has made relating to my character in Extremities exceedingly challenging. You see, my character suspects that there was no actual rape attempt and her housemate has gone off the deep end by tying a man up in the fireplace.
Considering she comes home to her housemate and is perfectly fine with a man stuffed in the fireplace – it certainly isn’t easy to discern the truth. That’s what makes it so intriguing. It’s easy when the facts are clear and irrefutable, but that’s rarely the case. Though it’s been challenging to see the world through this particular character’s eyes, I definitely believe in the importance of representing such a prevalent viewpoint. I know I’m not the only one in the show who has had to connect with the dark recesses of the human mind. After all, even though there is an attempted rape, does it really justify all that’s done to the attacker? Not to mention what goes on in the mind of a rapist.
My fellow cast members Sherry Berg, Jennifer Osborn, and Alex Zavistovich bring equally relevant and compelling perspectives to the stage as we fully explore this dark facet of humanity. In Extremities, we’re not afraid to take a hard look at an important and still all too present issue that will hopefully spark interesting questions and engaging discussion.
Preparing for ‘Extremities-Part 1: What I Learned by Being Hogtied, Blindfolded and Stuffed in a Fireplace by Alex Zavistovich.
Preparing for Extremities-Part 2: How I Achieved Quiet Comic Relief by Jennifer Osborn.
‘Extremities’ at Molotov Theatre Group review on DCMetroTheaterArts by John Stoltenberg.