Monday, April 30, 2007

Extremities

New Group Theatre Co.
Posted by peanutduck April 30, 2007; closes May 6, 2007

Kitchen sink story of rape: interesting premise, questions, and betrayals, but all muddled in a tedious script that disappoints rather than disturbs. The production’s overall 6-8 level of hysteria wearies. However, the performers are committed, particularly Aime Kelly as the eye within the storm; moments of silence are fully appreciated.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ugh, why do this show? Leave it back in high school acting competitions where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

From pdxbackstage:
I don't often post a recommendation, but since this is the last weekend of Extemities I felt the calling to do so. Portland is such a word of mouth city and this play by a new theatre company "New Group Theatre Co" has a really short run. I must say this play may not be for everyone. There is a dark theme (rape and brutalization) so well and realistically portrayed that anyone looking for a really exciting voyeuristic experience should try to catch it. Max Blonde plays a bad guy with frightening success. For the full effect may I suggest the front row. Thanks, Kay O

Anonymous said...

After seeing this play and reading Ben's review in Willy Week, I have to question what this little town is trying to accomplish with it's theater scene? Why would you try to scare audiences away from a show that is trying to say something. PCS did it with The Pillowman and now, we see one of the more read reviewers doing it with Extremities.

I am in no way trying to compare the quality of these shows. I much preferred Pillowman, but Extremities also had something to say, albeit through a very mediocre script.

I sometimes feel like Portland claims to be something it's not truly ready to be: An edgy, ever-growing theater town. It's not that the theater companies aren't trying. I constantly am seeing shows that are doing something different, or edgy, but the audiences are usually slim to none.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that this is a good or bad show...but neither did the reviewer. All he really said was, "This is a scary show, so don't see it because you might be scared, just like you were with Pillowman."

So again...what does Portland want it's theater scene to be? If it really does want to be more than an up-and-coming theater town, then it's gonna have to start supporting shows like Extremities and The Pillowman, because if it doesn't, then theater companies are gonna continue to stick with what is safe and happy and will please the subscribers.

pollyanna said...

Hmmm... Imagine if people who do appreciate shows like "Extremeties" and "Pillowman" actually became subscribers! They could infiltrate the establishment and effect change from within. The daring would become the norm. Hmmmm.....

That's assuming, of course, that there are audiences out there for that kind of work. Audiences beyond artists who want to do that kind of work.

And if there isn't? If an artist (or genre) cannot find an audience -- what does that mean? Surely the art is no less valid. But do audiences shoulder the blame for not liking everything that's given them?

I'm not advocating programming for the lowest common denominator. I'll leave that to television. I'm just saying it's interesting to hear people advocate for shows like "Extremeities" and "Pillowman" because those "other" folks -- the subscribers -- won't support them. Wouldn't it make more sense for a theatre company to cultivate subscribers (and audiences) that support their vision, rather than trying to force feed something? And wouldn't it make more sense for folks who want more shows like "Pillowman" to vote with their pocketbook and say -- yes, PCS, we support this kind of work and I will subscribe because of it.

Ben Waterhouse said...

Okay, I'll bite: what was this show trying to say? Did the script have a conclusion in mind besides an exerise in shock and horror? All I took away was that men are horrible and women are constantly threatened. I don't blame the ensemble--the acting was pretty swell--but what was the point of it all?

Honestly, I ask the same questions about Pillowman, but Martin McDonagh's writing is far more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Extremities is not a "message" play. There is nothing in the play that shows what the ideal world should be like. It was written to show what exists in the real world. Something like one in four women in this country have been raped. Two of the other three know someone who has been raped. But, unfortunatly, rape is not something that polite society talks about. And if we don't talk about it, we can't educate, and try to eliminate it. I doubt we can ever truly eliminate it, but we can at least try to put a dent in the numbers.
Extremities is brutal on purpose. It wants to show rape for what it really is about...Power. Raul wants to always have power, no matter the cost. And Raul exists in the real world. The script, while not the best written, is brave in that it takes the real world and puts it on the stage. And in the end, if you walk away thinking about the subject matter, the script has done it's job.

Ben Waterhouse said...

As a professional audience member, then, am I out of line in saying that "the sort of theatergoer who thought Portland Center Stage's The Pillowman was excessive" might not find this their cup of tea? My primary purpose, as a reviewer, is to give people a good idea of what they're in for.

Marlon said...

Ben,

I want to start off by saying that I am not attacking you as a person, but your review on this show. I felt that it was a review written purely to warn people so that they wouldn't write you an e-mail at your work saying, "Ben. Why didn't you warn me?"

I don't think it is your job to warn people. After all, they are adults. They can make up their own decision and we as artists should ask them to do so.

I would guess that 90% of people who go to a music concert have listened to at least one song of the band/artist. If they haven't, and they don't like the music, should the artist refund them? That would be letting the audience be lazy...and that's what I feel we are letting Portland audiences do with theater.

Like I said before, PCS let their subscribers off the hook by refunding their money for Pillowman. They shouldn't have had to. It is the responsibility of the audience to do their homework...or should we continue to let them be lazy? In one review, you said, "This play is about brutal rape and if you didn't like Pillowman, don't see it." To me, this was less informative than it was a flat out warning.

***As far as your, "Okay, I'll bite..." comment, here is what I have to say:

Bad things happen in the world and theater is a very immediate medium in which to tell stories and get people to talk in ways which don't occur after a TV show...
-With Pillowman, I felt like it was a look into our culture and how far we are willing to let an individual be experimented on in order to produce something artistic for us to enjoy.
-With Extremities, I felt like it was an archetypal character study on people who face the issue of how Rape has affected them. With the topic of rape, I guess you CAN say that men are bad and women victims, because men have to worry less about a woman raping them, etc. This is another discussion which could go on for a long time, which I think is the answer to your question, "What was the point?" My answer...to get you thinking and, hopefully, talking about what is wrong with rape. It's a pretty easy topic to say, "Oh, well, I'd rather not talk about that one."

All I am trying to convey to you are my - one person's - MY feeling about what I expect from a reviewer and a community of artists. We have to push our audiences to think. We shouldn't let them be lazy and we should expect more from them. I felt like you let the audience and yourself off the hook by writing a careful, warning review, but I guess I don't blame you for not wanting to take a one paragraph dive into a topic that most politicians won't touch with a ten foot pole.

Despite all I've said above and in my previous post, "After seeing this play...," I do, as an artist within the theater community, appreciate what you do for us. the time and energy you spend with us makes you just as important as the players on the stage. thanks for that, but occasionally I'm not going to see eye to eye with you and I am also impresse with your courage to publicly converse with us on these issues here.

Ben Waterhouse said...

I appreciate the feedback. It's always good to hear. And you're right, I did write the easy review.

I'll say this for the show: it was extraordinarily effective at getting me thinking about sexual assault, much more so than any cop show or college poster campaign. The first fifteen minutes were probably the most disturbing I've ever experienced as an audience member.

And I hope never to see it performed by high schoolers. That would be a little too freaky for me, thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I remember seeing girls perform scenes from that play multiple times in high school.

It's worse that hearing a 12 year old sing "Send in the Clowns".

Anonymous said...

A high school theatre teacher who allows their students to perform scenes from this play should be ashamed of themselves. They shouldn't be performing any part of the show without reading the entire script. Enough said.

Marlon said...

Hypothetically; what if the class read the entire script out loud, then chose scenes they felt were the most important in conveying a message to their peers about rape and performed some of those scenes, then had a talkback, monitored by a rape counselling advisor?

Would that teacher still need to feel ashamed of themselves?

I wish you could respond, but since you already made your blanket statement, followed by, "Enough said," I guess I'll just have to imagine what kind of response you might have had.

Rape is a tough issue and a lot of people close the doors on it. I just hope that you are not a school board member, making decisions on what are children should or shouldn't be allowed to think about. Heaven forbid they break down and talk about a script other than OUR TOWN.

Obviously, there are certain scenes that are inappropriate for high school agers to stage out of context, but there ARE messages in this script that, if talked about afterwards, could leave very powerful images in the kids minds about the negative effects of rape

Anonymous said...

Marlon, I'm not the anonymous 10:11, but I will say that I think that the script could be considered rated R at the least, and should best be left up to parents to decide whether their kids are ready for the adult themes and language rather than up to the teacher. The theme of rape isn't the problem for me as much as the language and the torture. For the same reason that reading "Macbeth" is OK in high school, but "Titus Andronicus" is usually a no go, I'm fairly confident that this is a play that should be approved for underage reading/viewing on a case by case basis, rather than read aloud in class as you suggest. It's not so much about "protecting the children" but about ensuring that they are ready to see/read/discuss something that is fraught with all kinds of shades of gray at an age when many of them are still experiencing life in pure black and white. You yourself said in an earlier post, and in a different context, "After all, they are adults. They can make up their own decision and we as artists should ask them to do so. " That is not the case with many high schoolers; they are not adults, and should not all be treated as though they were. And no, I'm not on a school board either, so don't worry!

Anonymous said...

Okay. This is the anonymous poster that Marlon disagreed with. And to clarify, by saying "enough said," I did not mean to indicate that my word was the be all and the end all on the topic of education. It was meant to indicate that if the students were required to read the entire script, it may not be appropriate for the age group as a school affiliated project. Sorry that was confusing.
I'm not a conservative weirdo that's trying to "close the doors" on rape discussions. And I'm not a school board member, but thank you for your concern. I'm an educator. And primarily I'm an actor. I completely advocate the use of theatre to promote discussion of challenging issues; in the classrooms and beyond. I teach my students the good, bad, and the ugly of our contemporary world. But is Extremities the ONLY script that one can use in a classroom to cover the ever sensitive topic of rape? Of course it isn't. I can easily name a handful of other shows that raise the same questions and promote the same discussions. Quite frankly, if I wanted to cover this issue with my students, I would seek a more contemporary script. Students need to discuss rape, violence, victim rights, etc. Is it possible to find a script that does so that it is more attainable to the students themselves? Yes.
You gave a hypothetical suggestion for the instructor who wants to teach Extremities in his/her classroom. That sounds just fine. I would start the preparatory work required (curriculum approval, parental approval, etc.) in September, but you are correct, it can be done.
Extremities is a play about violence. And power. In the hands of correct theatre group, it can be a dynamite show. But it was meant for adults. An educator needs to be creative, and flexible. We all know our public schools have become a relatively stifling environment for our teachers. But in the right hands, students can talk about all of the important social/political issues in an environment that is attainable for everyone, and not just those lucky enough to have parents sign off on an "R Rated" permission slip.
And jeez Marlin, I would hope that NOBODY is telling our kids what they should think about. And since you were concerned; I’ve never taught Our Town. Although classics also have an important place in any balanced curriculum.
Enough said. I'm just kidding. Keep talking folks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 5:40. Trying to keep the real world hidden from kids is part of the reason they shoot up their schools.
The MPAA is a censorship board that should be abolished under the first amendment.
You can teach "having an open mind" when you're living with blinders on.

jeff said...

Trying to keep the real world hidden from kids is part of the reason they shoot up their schools.

Hmmm...as opposed to alienation, depression, substance abuse, religion, abusive relationships and a few others that I'm sure I'm missing?

The MPAA is a censorship board that should be abolished under the first amendment.

What does this have to do with anything we are discussing here? I couldn't find what previous comment you were referencing, so I guess you are more fond of non-sequiturs than me.

Banana!

You can teach "having an open mind" when you're living with blinders on.

You can? How?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:06,
I'm looking at anon 5:40's post and I'm just not seeing what you seem to imply he/she is talking about. He/She says, "I completely advocate the use of theatre to promote discussion of challenging issues; in the classrooms and beyond. I teach my students the good, bad, and the ugly of our contemporary world." and "Students need to discuss rape, violence, victim rights, etc. Is it possible to find a script that does so that it is more attainable to the students themselves? Yes." as well as "but in the right hands, students can talk about all of the important social/political issues in an environment that is attainable for everyone, and not just those lucky enough to have parents sign off on an "R Rated" permission slip." What part of that indicates "Trying to keep the real world hidden from kids"?

I won't even comment on the linking of that erroneous conclusion to school shootings, other than to say I defy you to show me any research that backs up your assertion.

On a more YMMV (your mileage may vary)note, MPAA ratings, with the exception of NC-17, don't prevent anyone from seeing a movie; they just ensure that in the case of minors a parent or guardian is aware of it and hopefully prepared to discuss any questions or issues that arise because of the film's content. In my opinion, giving people information about what they're about to see does not equal censorship; no-one is saying they can't make the movies or that people can't choose to see them, but rather the audience should be given the opportunity to make an informed decision about how they spend their money and their time. And, yes, I've been naked, and sworn up a blue streak, and engaged in both homo and hetero sexual activity, and killed and been killed all on stage, all in the service of a story; I would hate to think that someone was so offended/angered by being involuntarily confronted with sex or violence or language that their use wasn't a reinforcement of the theme of the play, but rather a distraction from it. I'd rather have an audience that is OK with what's happening, or at least willing to stray outside their comfort zone voluntarily.

(Can't wait to see how this post will be misconstrued...please prove me to be overly pessimistic with this.)

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:06
If you do your research there is an indirect censorship by the MPAA, but it only relates to NC17 movies. R movies can be viewed by a person under 18 when with a parent or guardian. Again if you had done any research you would learn that the US Supreme Court has ruled that public schools can ban some types of language (i.e. f*ck, sh!t, ect) Those words are not protected by the 1st Amendment in a public school. So as anon 5:40 pointed out the problem with this show being in a public school is the language not the issues of rape. Their post clearly supports discussion of this very important topic in schools but done with a different show where the language is not an issue and that the students can more clearly identify with the characters. Perhaps Love Of The Nightingale would be a good choice.