From the opening moments of Dominican University's new dramatic production of "Extremities," the intensity of the action and its underlying emotions never let up. This controversial 1982 Off-Broadway play, which ran for 325 performances featured Susan Sarandon as a rape victim-turned-captor who manages to turn the tables on her attacker. Farrah Fawcett appeared in the film version.
Becca Duff, a senior from Itasca, has performed a lot of comedy roles at Dominican but until now has never appeared in such a heavy dramatic work. Duff says, "This is a three-person show and it's intense right from the opening moments and never really lets up. The play is 30-plus years old but the questions it raises are all still relevant. It's a lot for the audience to grab onto because the action jumps at you immediately. I play Marjorie who is attacked in her home but refuses to be a victim. This is a psychological thriller that raises questions of justice and revenge."
"The attack is vivid and very physical," says Duff. "But it's all controlled and carefully choreographed so we keep it safe. Our fight director, Claire Yearman, gives us safe ways to execute the violent encounter."
"Our culture still treats sexual assault victims badly," says Duff. "The survivors are often blamed for what happened to them. Victims of sexual violence still fear coming forward."
Director Robin M. Hughes says, "Due to the physical violence and some of the language, we recommend the play for mature audiences. It vividly illustrates a lot of heavy issues. Rapists are often masters of manipulation seeking to control and humiliate their victims and destroying their sense of self and peace in the process. This play does not shy away from its topic. It's so intense it's hard for the actors to leave it at the stage door, I know."
Duff, a double major in Theater Arts and Apparel Design, says, "The playwright, William Mastrosimone, wrote the script after interviewing a rape victim who wanted to 'fight back' by telling her story of degradation and humiliation."
"All the characters in 'Extremities' are essentially imprisoned," says Hughes. "So Bill Jenkins, our set designer, has created a closed-in performance space, almost like a boxing ring."
Also in the cast are Tommy Malouf, Tracy Ewert, and Vicky Giannini.
There is no intermission.
Thursday night, February 20, is a preview performance at 7 p. m. with $12 tickets. There is a "talk-back" discussion after that show. Friday and Saturday night's performances, February 21 and 23, are at 7:30 with $17 tickets. Sunday, February 23, the matinee at 3 p. m. is also $17.
"Extremities" is being performed in the Martin Recital Hall in the Fine Arts Building on the Dominican campus, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest.
This production promises to be a provocative evening of intense theater you're not likely to forget in a hurry.