Friday, May 23, 2014

A Surprise Rendition of Marat/Sade at Pistarckle

This post is a bit more of a review than my other posts, but it is because I just cannot say enough good things about the job Pistarckle Theater did with this production. Marat/Sade is not an easy production to tackle as it is a play within a play. At first glance it may appear as though you are watching a bunch of horrid actors attempting to act out the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat. Then you may take notice to how dreadful they are being treated while enacting the production.

For many that may have missed the cleverly rhymed introduction, it is a play performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton. In fact, the actual title of said play is 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.

For those that may be a little weak on their history, Jean-Paul Marat was one of the more radical voices during the French Revolution despite being a physician that often mingled with the courts. He was considered a martyr of the revolution following his death. The Marquis de Sade was an aristocrat known for his libertine sexuality and for his disturbing (to me, anyway) novel, " the 120 Days of Sodom." Believe me when I say I am not by any means conservative about human sexuality, but this book was hard to finish.

Okay, now you have some back story on the characters. Without absolutely ruining the production, I will say, there is a movie that came out in 1967 based on the play and is just as convoluted and as intense as the actors at Pistarckle conveyed. The story line and subject matter are not easy ones to tackle. On an island as conservative as ours to even broach the subject of severe mental illness, freedom of sexuality, or the oppression of a people is an ENORMOUS undertaking and takes great bravery. For that alone I applaud them. It may not seem at first glance that there are all these messages in this humble production, but I assure you that you would be gravely mistaken if you missed them. Every single time an inmate gets to lines about oppression in the play (during the French Revolution) you see how excited they get because (as patients in an asylum) they can relate. They are not treated as equals and start to act up during their production. The entire story is peppered with overt references to what many would call "sexual deviancy." The dark lighting and the abrupt ending of the play leave you uneasy... and yet satisfied.

Some of the scenes are hard to watch. I won't lie.

There were many scenes I laughed, many scenes I teared up. I have never been shy about my battle with mental illness, I even wrote a detailed post on Potspoon! about it, so in many instances I related to the patients in the production. Yes, the actors at our awesome little island theater got me to cry. It isn't the first time either. I am continually impressed by the level of performance I get to witness on St. Thomas.

If you walked out of an early performance of Marat/Sade, do yourself a favor and go see it again from a different viewpoint. Watch the "patients" interact with each other despite what they are saying. Pay attention to the silent players on stage. There is so much to witness and take in and they did a hell of a job pulling it off. You only have two nights left to revisit this amazing production. You do yourself a great disservice by missing out.


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