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"Marat/Sade" is Crazy Good
“The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” by Peter Weiss, commonly known as "Marat/Sade" is perhaps the ultimate play within a play.
The audience members are informed when the play begins that they are about to watch the inmates of Charenton perform a historical play written about the death of Jean Paul Marat written by the Marquis de Sade.
All of the inmates of Charenton who participate in the play suffer from diseases; the inmate playing Charlotte Corday, for example, suffers from “Sleeping Sickness”, and the fellow playing Marat is paranoid and delusional. We are informed that the play is intended to serve as art therapy, for everyone who participates, including the Marquis de Sade, who also serves as director.
This production that is currently running at the Sacred Fools theater on Heliotrope in Hollywood is successful production of this difficult play on many levels. The cast, overall, is really superb. These roles are not easy ones to play- they demand a huge amount of physical and mental energy, and everyone- especially the actors playing the different nameless inmates- does an excellent job. Rob Adler as Herald and Amy Peterson as Charlotte Corday were two who stood out as exceptional among a very strong cast.
One of my favorite aspects of this production was the set. Designed by Patrick J. Adams (who also directs) and Mia Torres, it is a really superb design in that it sets the scene effectively and at the same time serves to accent some of the themes of the show. An enormous French flag gets used as a curtain that gets pulled back and forth over the back wall of the set throughout the show, emphasizing the ironically nationalistic themes in the text.
I also appreciated how the manager of the mental institution watches the show from his spot high off the ground- he's watching the audience too, further blurring the line between "us" and "them."
Marat/Sade is not exactly a musical, but this production has an original score composed by Maria DeLuca and Josh Charney. The whole cast contributes to the music by banging away on makeshift percussion during some of the scenes, and I found the music to be really helpful in setting the tone. They musicians and composers deserve a hand for a job well done there.
The only minor criticism I have with the production is with the direction. Patrick J. Adams does a really superb job, overall, however at times, I think his enthusiasm about the text comes off as a bit heavy hand at a few key spots. There are moments in the text where it would be impossible for an educated audience member not to see the obvious parallels between the problems plaguing revolutionary and post-revolutionary France, and the problems plaguing the world today.
"We have invented the Revolution" Weiss characters remind us "But we do not know how to run it." Adams might have done well to let Weiss' words stand alone however he has the tendency over-produce moments such as these. The result is that occasionally the play veers off the "relevant" track and dangerously close to "overwrought". Overall, however, Adams deserves accolades for a beautiful job with a difficult text.
I would encourage everyone to see this show, I imagine that it will be tough to find a production that captures the spirit of the play so well. It's a very useful play as well- it will arm the audience members with a whole new arsenal of intellectual tools to use in understanding life in America in 2006.
Marat/Sade is presented by Blue House Theater in association with Big Mama Farm Productions through September 24. Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 5. Special pay-what-you-can performance on Sept. 11 at the Sacred Fools Theater 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood, CA 90004
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