The local babe starring in Conspiracy Productions' staging of Conspiracy's Extremities doesn't have to set a record straight. Dahlia Legault has already proven her mettle in Agnes of God and other local plays. In September, she was named Best of the Bay 2010 Best Actress.
It seems only natural that Legault would be chosen to play Marjorie. She has that special mix of savoir faire and moxie, but the role demands more. It requires going from being helpless and vulnerable to a raging survivor and back again. It's quite a grab bag of emotions, and Legault pulls each one out with nuanced brilliance. She's so natural onstage; she makes watching such an intense play in such tiny space comfortably uncomfortable.
What I mean by "uncomfortable" is there's just no relaxing in the play Extremities. It takes you through the utterly gross feelings, shame and fear of an attempted rape. I mean, you get thoroughly creeped out in this show ("They always make their lips tight!" ... ughhhh).
The constant shudder comes to us thanks to a knockout performance by Robert Hooker as intruder Raul. When he first clumsily enters Marjorie's house, it's hard to believe he'd turn into such a monster. Hooker goes from hapless nice to guy to raging pervert in a matter of a few short, convincing minutes, making us simultaneously hate him and get a sense his humanity.
When Marjorie gets the better of Raul and keeps him captive in her fireplace, there's no whiplash of character change. Throughout the whole ordeal, Legault shows us the gamut of fear, rage, doubt and self-protectiveness a woman goes through in Marjorie's situation. She's locked into character throughout and doesn't seem aware at all that she's in black-box theater and not some farmhouse in New England.
I can't emphasize enough how the tiniest hint of overacting would make a play like Extremities in a space like Silver Meteor cringingly hard to watch. Extremities makes you cringe for all the right reasons. Your eyes are glued on the action. From the well-executed fight scenes to strained conversation, you can tell director Greg Milton supervised the action with a meticulous eye while allowing for organic moments of expression.
Marjorie's roommates, played by Nicole J. Smith (Terri) and Patti (Suzy DeVore), add distinct characterizations and a whole other layer of drama -- showing us, together with Legault, that the housemates' friendship has some major potholes to overcome. The audience gets acquainted with their backstory and dynamic through their exchanges with one another.
Though I looked forward to the play -- and am glad I did -- I will admit that sometimes after a long day at work, I'm a little wary of going into a small space with rickety chairs. The well-appointed Silver Meteor and its friendly crowd, however, made me feel right at home. What's more, the light, sound and set (not pictured above) were remarkably polished for such a small, relatively low-budget theater. I'd just ask Silver Meteor manager/owner Michael Murphy to turn down the A/C a tad -- or recommend wearing long sleeves to the show.
Also, proceeds from the play go to local charities that aid victims of abuse, rape and domestic violence. Milton provides some alarming statistics about crime against women in the play's program, reminding us why it's worthwhile to go see Conspiracy's Extremities this weekend.
Extremities runs through Nov. 7 at Silver Meteor Gallery, 2213 E. Sixth Ave., Ybor City. Show times are 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. $15, $12 for students, seniors and military. For information, call 813-300-3585.