Theatre Mirror Reviews - "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"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"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
Directed by Todd Hearon
Original Score by Adam Roberts
English Version by Geoffrey Skelton
Verse Adaptation by Adrian Mitchell

Composer, Music Director Adam Roberts
Assistant Director, Production Manager Kevin Kidd
Dance and Mime Choreography by Kristen Corman
Stage Combat Choreography by Ted Sharon
Set Design by Jeffery Jones
Lighting Design by Ben Clark
Dramaturg Branden Marcel Kornell
Technician Dan Koughan
Photography by Matt Samolis
Graphic Design by Eric Vogt
Publicity Director Rosemary Ellis
House Managers Maggie Dietz & Kathy Kidd
Stage Managers Emily Brandt & Eric Vogt

Marquis de Sade.................Bill Doscher
Jean-Paul Marat..................Jeffery Jones
Charlotte Corday..........Anastasia Barnes
Simone Evrard......................Jane Martin
Cucurucu/Duperret......Jacob Strautmann
Jacques Roux....................Jason Audette
Herald................................Melissa Allen
Coulmier............Branden Marcel Kornell
Sisters........Maria Brandt, Gretchen Gast
Singers & Musicians
Kokol...........................Ozzie Carnan, Jr.
Polpoch............................Ann Carpenter
Rossignol..................................Erin Bell
Chris Burke, Penny Frank, Michael Makowski, Jim Muzzi, Abby Phon, Jean Sheikh

Friends! Frenchmen! Citizens! I had this week-end a most intriguing yet amusing evening of, well, of theater --- not in a play-house, but in a mad-house. Our most enlightened Citizen --- or should I say Doctor --- Coulmier has begun what he says are beneficial and therapeutic events at his Asylum at Charenton at which the inmates are not audience but actually participants (I would not go so far as to call them "actors"). Should you be privileged to attend, you will not I daresay fail to find the proceedings laughable and poignant enough to enliven your dinner-conversations all season long. The night I was there the dramatis personae attempted "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat" as written by Citizen --- or should I say Marquis --- de Sade, a permanent resident in that Asylum. Really, the experience was unforgettable!

The figure of the ageing, world-weary, cynical playwright (Bill Doscher) lounging in silks in his chair, dominated his own play, and no wonder. For his Marat, likewise mired in a bathtub plagued by an itching skin-disease, the playwright cast a paranoiac (Jeffrey Jones) whose intense, suspicious eyes continually raked the assembly while supposedly writing a call to revolt --- long after the revolution had won! For much of the evening, the playwright and his character engaged in a duelling discussion of the fates, the rights, and the conditions of mankind --- one a ruthless idealist demanding total freedom, the other a world-weary neurasthenic insisting all revolts, like all lives, end only in the defeat of death.

These may, of course, have been extempore debates, for they had none of the wittily tripping rhymes of the narrative of the Herald (Melissa Allen), nor the ponderously ritualistic repeated visits of the assassin Charlotte Corday (Anastasia Barnes) --- de Sade has cast in this part an occasional catatonic afflicted with sleeping sickness! --- nor the slyly derisive biography of Marat played very prettily by inmates in masks. And there are interludes of original music, including a stirring, sprightly hymn to the "Fifteen Glorious Years" of the rise of Emperor Napoleon from Marat's death in 1793 to the triumphs of today's 1808!

In point of fact, the evening was as fascinating not only because of the dramatic arts, but in the very mise-en-scene and the ambience of activity everywhere in the room. Inmates as much in touch with their own internal demons as the characters they were to play danced to their own drummers at the edges of the stage as well as in its center. And in point of fact the madman chosen to play militant preacher Jacques Roux (Jason Audette) took his part to stentorian excess, and so this Spirit of Freedom sat, straight-jacketed, in chains and eventually gagged because of his over-excitement.

And it was true, upon occasion throughout the evening I was there, that all the inmates seemed to feed on this over-stimulating material, threatening to overwhelm the watchful calm of the sisters patiently restraining them. It could be I misunderstand madness, but it did seem upon occasion that the restlessness of the crowd, spurred on be the cries for "Freedom", might boil over into uncontrollable violence.

I trust, therefore, should you be lucky enough to sample an evening in the madhouse, that they will instead perform a less inciteful play!

===Anon. ( a k a Citizen Stark )

17 August - 1 September
Black Box Theater, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 426-0320

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide