4/19/2013 6:37 PM
From its explosive beginning to its unnerving end, this psychological thriller is simultaneously intriguing and profoundly disturbing. It follows Raul’s attempted rape of Marjorie, and the lengths to which she goes for revenge. The dialogue is brutally sharp: few monologues punctuate the script, which moves at a violently rapid pace. The setting is claustrophobic: all the action takes place in the living room of a farmhouse from which neither protagonist nor audience can escape. Mastrosimone is a master of surprise: the moment when we (and Marjorie) realize that Raul is truly psychotic in the opening scene is nerve shattering. Likewise, Mastrosimone subverts the initial setup by transforming victim into attacker, predator into feeble prey. He thereby taunts our idea of empathy as our sympathy shifts from one character to the other.
Yet while the play is certainly thrilling and confronting, it expounds an ideology that is ultimately disturbing. In Raul’s psychopathic nature Mastrosimone has achieved his goal of deconstructing “the two lethal myths. One, that women cause rape, and two, that rape is for sex.” Certainly the play suggests the failings of society in allowing rape to happen and go unchecked. Yet in making a villain out of Marjorie the author seems to suggest that anyone is capable of violent behaviour if pushed to the limit. Yet rape is an undeniably male act: rather than being able to unite with her sisters and defeat Raul, Marjorie must adopt the male identity of violent torturer. It suggests that the only way to defeat male violence is with an equal level of masculine brutality.
In the afterword, Mastrosimone writes that “so many rape victims have told me that ‘Extremities’ has provided the catharsis that rape, police, lawyers, courts have not provided.” Yet catharsis is not the same as healing. By dealing only with the violence and horror of the event, Mastrosimone has neglected to demonstrate what is most difficult and most necessary, both for the victim and for society at large: healing, hope and recovery.