If you're looking for an evening of intense theater, don't miss the Hard Bargain Players' production of "Extremities." Director Janet Zavistovich has assembled a talented crew of actors and technicians to bring a difficult script to life and audience members to the edge of their seats.
The outdoor venue is a fitting backdrop for William Mastrosimone's script. We first meet Marjorie during a quiet morning at home while her two roommates are at work.
The peace is short-lived, interrupted first by a willful wasp and then by a stranger named Mike who initially appears to have mistakenly arrived at her house. He makes himself quite comfortable before revealing his true intention: to rape Marjorie and her roommates. What follows is a realistic look at the psychological horrors of sexual assault and the ability of the human spirit to react, adapt and accept.
Much of the credit for the strength of this production goes to the two leads, Katherine Prout and Brian Donohue. As Marjorie, Prout gives a thoroughly believable performance. After enduring a physical assault and emotional mind games, we watch her transition from captive to captor with complete credibility.
Prout runs the gamut of emotions as she portrays Marjorie's internal struggle between justice and revenge and, ultimately, right versus wrong, and each reaction is on the mark. She painstakingly demonstrates an answer to the question: Just how far would you go when pushed to the breaking point?
As Mike, Donohue turns in a strong performance, playing the villain with believability. He's required to switch seamlessly between feigned innocence and brutal arrogance, and Donohue does not disappoint. At times we almost get caught up in the lies he tells to free himself, and yet he keeps us keenly aware of his cold calculations as he spins another fabrication to his advantage. Donohue commands the stage with ease and smoothly transforms his character from attacker to victim and back.
The roommates, ably played by Diana Fox and Brooke Howells, bring levity and logic to a situation that defies both as they wrestle with questions of guilt and innocence, judgment and punishment. As the methodical social worker, Howells provides a calming presence that offsets the intensity of the circumstances. Fox's comedic timing draws a number of laughs, offering the audience some much-needed release from the intensity. Neither character is as fully developed as the leads, but that is a fault of the script and not the director.
The show is solid from a technical perspective. The faux fireplace, a focal point for much of the play, deserves special recognition for its realism. Some of the lighting effects involving the fireplace proved to be a bit distracting, but overall the lighting by Juliana Bogdan nicely underscored the ambiance established. The sound (designed by Donohue) worked well.
The biggest technical flaw on opening night involved the ropes used to restrain the attacker. We saw someone offstage offer a rope to an actor onstage in a very noticeable -- and seemingly unnecessary -- handoff, which detracted from the realism. Once used, the rope was obviously not taut enough across the fireplace to accomplish its purpose. A blindfold also proved distracting as it continually slipped, and these were elements that could easily be fixed to lend more authenticity to the situation.
Numerous physical assaults occur, and fight choreographer Alex Zavistovich gives them realism. We are never left with the impression that anything was staged; rather, it all unfolds smoothly and believably as one actor wrestles with another. Prout's diminutive size could make it difficult to believe she could fight back against someone of Donohue's stature, but through careful choreography, the audience buys her ability to overcome him by sheer force of will.
Don't go to see this show if you desire a quiet night of comfortable entertainment, but if you're game to witness a horrifyingly realistic look at sexual assault and its emotional impact, don't miss "Extremities."
"Extremities" will be performed at the Amphitheatre at Hard Bargain Farm at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Oct. 7 and 8. General admission tickets are $12; $10 for students, seniors and Alice Ferguson Foundation Members. For ticket information, call 301-392-9901 or visit www.hbplayers.org.