Directed by Glendele Way-Agle
Translaptation by Jeremy Gable
May 13, 2005
'Marat.Sade' provocative as ever
Review: New 'translaptation' makes the brilliant original work more relevant to today's
By ERIC MARCHESE
Special to the Register
Is Peter Weiss' "The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the
Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade,"
written more than 40 years ago, still relevant?
Commonly known as "Marat/Sade," this intellectually involving play-within-a-play
dissects the effects of the French Revolution as viewed by the Marquis de Sade in 1808,
during his confinement at Charenton. (Sade was indeed confined for several years at
Charenton, where he wrote and presented plays often viewed with alarm by the institution's
In "Marat/Sade," the Marquis has written a little script connecting France's
present (the early 19th century) with the bloodshed of the French Revolution and,
specifically, the murder, in 1793, of revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte
Corday, as Marat was soaking in his bathtub.
The twist - and the brilliance of "Marat/Sade" - is the Marquis' use of the
asylum's inmates as his "actors," blurring the line between reality and
Further blurring that line, at Hunger Artists Theater Company, is the audience's close
proximity to the "actors" in Sade's play and the presumption that we, the
viewers, are wealthy aristocrats there to take in Sade's play as a trifling diversion.
Better still, this is an all-new "translaptation" of the play being called
"Marat.Sade." Jeremy Gable has retranslated Weiss' original text, then adapted
it, adding rhyming couplets, and he and P. Matthew Park have composed original music and
Call me crazy, but by whittling the script down to size and turning Sade's
"play" about Marat's murder into a mini-musical, Gable, Park and director
Glendele Way-Agle have made Weiss' work infinitely more provocative. This version slyly
adds its own ideas while retaining a subversive, anti-authority tone, and the inventive,
wildly funny songs are wickedly ironic - something the Marquis would have been likely to
do, and would appreciate today.
What's more, with just a tweak here and a bit of stylization there, this trio has wrought
something eminently relevant to our day and time: Sade's "characters," for
example, complain bitterly of poverty (though surrounded by wealth) and warn of the evils
of deploying ever-deadlier military weapons and the dangers of sending ill-equipped
soldiers into battle.
Eager to protect himself, asylum director Coulmier (Scott E. Derrell) stops Sade's play
whenever it criticizes the church, while Coulmier, Sade and baton-wielding nurses (Kim
White, Melissa Hand, Sammi Smith) jump in to restrain inmates who get carried away while
performing their roles.
Way-Agle's staging also has the right look: Cassandre de la Fortrie costumes Sade,
Coulmier and the Herald in finery. While Sade's clothing is elegant yet worn, Coulmier is
a fancy Dan with flowing white wig, black jacket, red breeches, golden slip-on shoes and
walking stick. The inmates and nurses wear variations of white, a thematic connection to
Sandi Sullivan's white-tiled asylum bathhouse scene design.
Mark Coyan is a vital, bold, impudent Sade who struts the stage, taking pleasure in
shoving his "actors" onto their marks, slapping them around or pulling their
hair. Driven by carnal appetites, he's a cynic who views words and thoughts as
"meaningless" and humankind as universally, immutably selfish.
Way-Agle uses 10 performers as Charenton's inmates. Whether giggling, gazing around
distractedly, or raptly watching the performances of their fellow inmates, her cast
captures the spontaneity - as well as the tics, quirks and random speech patterns and
movements - of a ragged group of wretches suffering from a variety of medical maladies.
With an aura similar to John Turturro, Mike Caban is sympathetic as the thoughtful,
brooding "Marat," the inmate known only by his character's name. When not
nodding off during the "play" (she's narcoleptic), Jessica Beane's terrified,
desperate Charlotte is seriously disturbed, her eyes popping out in anger or surprise.
Jason Lythgoe's Duperret lusts after her while attacking Marat as a hypocrite - a man of
privilege who depicts himself as one of the masses.
Christopher Spencer delivers a powerful turn as the priest, Roux, who suffers rabid
outbursts of severe stammering and palpable tics. Hulking, bald-pated Leonard Joseph
Dunham is notable as Kokol, a silent, fear-ridden buffoon (and one of Sade's four singing,
dancing inmates), while Gable's Herald is a nervous sprite ordered by Sade to function as
accompanist, musical director, narrator and stage director of the Marquis' play.
Way-Agle has the "inmates" wander the lobby and house before the show and,
during it, interact with the audience. As Sade's "play" unfolds, his
"actors" stop mid-sentence to ask for their next line, creating the sense that
we're watching the first run-through of a rough amateur play. This combination of incisive
content and surreal presentation yields live theater at its best, challenging us to think
critically about the political constructs of our society.