‘Marat/Sade’ draws audiences in with thought-provoking production

Becca Ehlers, Columnist

If you’re looking for a happy show, WAVE’s “Marat/Sade” (directed by Fergus Inder) is not for you. If you’re looking for an intense, interactive, thought-provoking experience, get down to McCormick Auditorium while you still can.

“Marat/Sade” is a play within a play, but it’s very different from any play within a play you’re likely to have seen. The inmates of a French asylum perform a show detailing the events of the French Revolution leading up to the assassination of writer and radical Jean-Paul Marat. But under the direction of the Marquis de Sade, the patients use the performance as their own form of rebellion. Full of dark humor and haunting music, it was unlike anything I’d seen before.

Again, this play is intense. The cast is very strong; even ensemble members without defined identities project powerful characterization. One of the most unique features of the show is the way the actors interact with the audience. Instead of being confined to the stage, actors make effective use of the whole theater: Characters in the aisles aimed their lines at us, using the audience as evidence of the ingrained nature of a mob mentality. At one point, the Marquis de Sade sat himself down next to us to deliver a monologue. It isn’t a show you can escape from, figuratively or literally.

The design aspects of the production do a good job of contrasting simple and extreme. Costumes are fitting, but fairly neutral, while distinctive makeup paints a more personal picture of the characters. The set is basic with a plain, white-washed look, but the lighting is eerily vibrant.

“Marat/Sade” is a difficult show to review because it leaves you unsure of how to feel. The revolution may have happened at the end of the 1700s, but the concepts are anything but dated. How does society adapt to authority? What does freedom mean to the individual? Who can make the distinction between sanity and madness? Find your own answer at “Marat/Sade” — because honestly, I don’t know.

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