Ghoulish German Drama Marat/Sade: Tony-Winning Tale of Human Suffering
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The last date listed for Marat/Sade was Sunday July 29, 2012 / 7:00pm.
Currently at Brava Theater Center - Main Theater:
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The San Francisco International Women's Film Festival lives up to its worldly name with a screening of eight female-directed short films from across the globe, with hand-picked submissions from Malaysia, Australia, France, United Kingdom and the U.S. The selections include several Bay Area premieres and a wide range of subjects and forms, from narrative and docudrama to an animated, stop-motion musical, with running times from one minute to just under 20. A filmmaker Q&A follows. Please see the full event description for more on the scheduled lineup. Learn More
Reviews & Ratings
Featured review from Goldstar Member
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For those not familiar with Marat/Sade, Weiss' play does not present a realistic story where the audience disappears into the dark and is transported to a fictitious place where it watches the action as silent voyeurs. Instead, the script mixes Brechtian techniques (where the actors talk to the audience and constantly remind them that they are watching a play) with Antonin Artaud's passionate yearnings for a theater that is more real than life itself. These two styles are supposed to collide and force the audience to think critically while also being emotionally shocked.
According to the script, the action takes place in a French insane asylum in the year 1808, after the French Revolution. The Marquis de Sade (from whom we get the term sadism) has written a play to be performed by his fellow inmates. (The historical de Sade actually did do this.) This play-within-a-play debates the efficacy and horrors of revolutionary action, and is performed in the asylum's bathhouse where psychiatric treatment at the time included hydrotherapy. Because the "patients" are not supposed to be good actors, the play has multiple levels of pretending going on. For example, the production needs to decide when the actors pretending to be patients should act "badly" because they are mentally disturbed and when should they should become so impassioned with their lines and own experiences of oppression that they act with powerful conviction and clarity.
Generally speaking, Weiss' play uses mental illness as a metaphor for iconoclastic and revolutionary thinking. It also uses the asylum as a metaphor for state oppression. However, the unusual thing about this production of Marat/Sade is that the stage does not look like a French asylum, and the actors never really act like patients. Instead they seem to celebrate a sort of freakery that echoes the Thrill Peddler's history of Grand Guignol and ghoulish delight in horror aesthetics and vaudeville tradition. Because of this, the production leans heavily to its Brechtian side and the "reality" about French mental patients disappears. What we are left with are very enthusiastic San Francisco actors having a raucously good time playing around being "deviants." (A fellow audience member actually suggested to me that the bathhouse in this production is supposed to represent an 1980s SF gay bathhouse. This made me think that this production is using the metaphor of Queer deviance instead of mental illness to represent cultural and class revolution.)
Be warned: because the play is in verse, which is often sung while accompanied by rambunctious, discordant music, it will be difficult for you to follow much of its meaning if you do not already know the premise and lines of the play. Additionally, this specific production is even more difficulty to follow because some of the actors' diction is not very clear.
That being said, some of the actors, namely those playing the Herold and Marat, are quite interesting and strong. And the rest of the company is endearing and clearly have an infectiously good time. Thursday night's audience responded to this enthusiasm by giving a standing ovation. In summary, if you enjoy theater that cannot be duplicated by film or television, and you don't mind doing a little bit of reading before the show to prepare yourself, this production is certainly worth seeing and supporting. But if you only occasionally attend theater, and prefer straight, realistic drama, I suggest skipping it.
Ps. Weiss' play today remains quite topical. Its condemnation of war profiteers could have been written last week.
Quotes & Highlights
- "Let the truly adventurous eat <em>Marat/Sade</em>. In what may be the year's most felicitous blend of company, producer, and material, Thrillpeddlers and Marc Huestis offer an exuberant, exquisitely trashy, and note-perfect revival of Peter Weiss's radical 1963 play…” -- <em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.sfbg.com/2012/07/17/asylum-seekers">SF Bay Guardian</a></em>
- "The 25-person ensemble isn't just a backdrop; rather, the collective is the star of the show. Each member of the cast has a fully fleshed out relationship with every other member, creating a lively society-in-miniature.” --<em><a target="_blank" href="http://blogs.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2012/07/marat_sade_thrillpeddlers.php">SF Weekly</a></em>
- "Written in the early 1960s, Marat/Sade remains a remarkably relevant work and retains an almost diabolical theatrical intensity that so dazzled early audiences.... and the production at Brava is an even more rare blend of artistry, dramatic connection, and showbiz pizazz wrapped up as a carefully planted sloppy wet kiss." --<em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.ebar.com/arts/art_article.php?sec=theatre&article=865">Bay Area Reporter</a></em>
- "The acting and musical challenges of the piece are handled beautifully by the enthusiastic ensemble, and the leads are brilliant." --<a target="_blank" href="http://theatrestorm.com/2012/07/18/thrillpeddlers-maratsade-a-feast-of-intellect-and-theatrical-magic">Theatre Storm</a>
- "A must see" --<a target="_blank" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-pinto/the-thrillpeddlers-talk-r_b_1677848.html">Huffington Post</a>
- Listen to Judy Collins' <a target="_blank" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOZXFNI0Q1M "><em>Marat/Sade</em></a>, a medly of songs from the play.
Marc Huestis presents Thrillpeddlers' Marat/Sade
written by Peter Weiss/directed by Russell Blackwood
The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as performed by the Inmates of the Asylyum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade by Peter Weiss.
Almost fifty years ago, when Peter Weiss' Tony- winning play and theatrical event premiered, voiced demanded change. Today with Occupy movement, once again the street are alive with youth questioning authority. Marat/Sade captures the politics of these exciting moments by harkening back to another tumultuous period--The French Revolution. The dialectics of personal and political change are seen through the eyes of its two protagonists: the infamous Marquis de Sade, after whom sadism is named, and a proponent of pleasure; and Jean-Paul Marat, the clarion voice of the people--now awaiting assassination in his bathtub at the hands of counter revoluntionary Charlotte Corday. With its bloody depiction of class struggle and human suffering, hope and disillusionment, Marat/Sade is a slyly humorous feast for the mind and eye and once again outrageously relevant.