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The Extractionist: A modern-day murder mystery 

By Nimra Amir, February 15 2023

The Extractionist, a murder mystery by Calgary’s own Michaela Jeffery, had its world premiere at the Vertigo Theatre on Feb. 2. But unlike other murder mysteries, The Extractionist felt less like a murder mystery and even scarier, more like real life. 

The play follows a strong female lead, Asha Ray (Monice Peter) who is one of, if not, the best expert deprogrammer, or extractionist, for those in cults beyond the help of law enforcement. But even with dozens of “recoveries” across the Pacific Northwest, she has no proper office. Instead, her clients, or often the family members of those in cults, can only find her through under-the-table referrals by legal aid deputies or social workers. That was the case for Grant Langdon (Robert Klein) who found Ray through a referral to help his son Matt Langdon (Joe Perry) who following his membership in the cult-ish organization Luminia — led by self-help guru Richard Holland (Stafford Perry) — was detained by law enforcement as a person of interest in the case of a missing woman. 

With the help of retired detective Rueben Medina (Mike Tan), Ray investigates the case but exposes more secrets than even she would prefer. 

The self-help guru-led cult is one that the play perfectly illustrates from real life. Within the last year especially there has been mainstream popularity of self-help gurus like Jordan Peterson or Andrew Tate who espouse the rare tidbit of basic advice along with problematic beliefs like those of misogyny to their almost cult-ish following who then act on not only the rare tidbit of basic advice but also problematic beliefs like those of misogyny. More often than not, those who act on problematic beliefs like those of misogyny by committing crimes against women, including the self-help gurus themselves, evade justice. 

In the play, Ray explores the length one can go to ensure justice is served for these self-help gurus and their followers.

The play starts strong with an action-oriented plot that continues throughout the play as the audience is presented with plot twist after plot twist — complimented by the dynamic use of the staging like when the spotlight quickly moves from one side of the stage to the other or from one room on the stage to the other. So, from start to finish, the audience on the edge of their seats could not help but have their eyes glued to the stage following Ray in her investigation of a modern-day murder mystery. 

To follow Ray’s investigation yourself, you can purchase tickets for shows of The Extractionist which run until Feb. 26, 2023, on the Vertigo Theatre website

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