Shoot the moon
But Crossroads Productions’ Extremities, currently at the Geery Theater, takes the cake as the most intense show in town, in this or any other recent year. This is one harrowing, disturbing evening of theater.
The opening scene finds the good-looking, athletic Marjorie (Michelle B. Armstrong) puttering around the house in her bathrobe. A Latino man (Luis DeAnda, looking something like a gangbanger who’s turned 30) lets himself into the house, and the sense of menace leads into an increasingly tense exchange between these two characters that culminates in one of the most brutal portrayals of attempted sexual assault I’ve ever witnessed onstage. This is a hard, hard scene to watch.
That’s just a portion of the first scene. Without giving away too much, Marjorie successfully turns the tables on her attacker in a physical sense—but she has almost nothing in the way of proof that she was attacked; it’s her word against his. And at that point, Extremities becomes a nerve-jangling combination of personal menace and troubling moral choices, as Marjorie, the attacker Raul, and eventually Marjorie’s two roommates (Amber Kloss, Cynthia Davis) come to grips with the standoff in their living room.
Armstrong has been in a number of shows around town in recent years, but nothing she’s done in the past prepared me for the volcanic, gut-wrenching performance she turns in here. One can sling around words like “powerful” or “all-out” or what-you-will—let’s just say that Armstrong takes enormous risks and basically shoots the moon. DeAnda is also very good as Raul, resourcefully fleshing out the attacker’s quick mind and his constantly shifting strategies.
Director Bill Voorhees is young, but handles his responsibilities in this show quite impressively, like a veteran. None of the characters created by playwright William Mastrosimone comes away entirely blameless in this one; neither the playwright nor Voorhees are looking for black-and-white contrasts of good and evil, victimizer and victim or, in fact, easy answers of any kind.
The show loses just a little momentum coming out of intermission—some of the speeches seem a little too posed. But the conclusion—a real tour de force by Armstrong and DeAnda—brings the show back to full throttle.
It’s a very challenging show, well done, and also an exhausting experience for the audience. See it, because it’s good, but be prepared for a tough, bruising evening that poses some very troubling questions. (Not recommended for the young, the faint of heart, or those out on a first date.)