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Inside the Asylum Studio

October 15, 2014

Marquis de Sade portrait, circal 1760Ready for a bit of musical theater insanity?

The Tony Award-winning musical by Peter Weiss, “Marat/Sade,” which opens Thursday, Oct. 23, presents the story of inmates in a lunatic asylum who want to present a play about an assassination.

Several years after the end of the French Revolution, the inmates of the lunatic asylum of Charenton – a mostly female gulag – decide to enact the story of the murder of the French revolutionary, Jean-Paul Marat.

The play is to be directed by one of the asylum’s most infamous of residents, the Marquis de Sade, with chaotic results. The inmates find their reality blurred between the world of the play and the world of the asylum for the insane.

While the play-within-a-play is set in the heart of the French Revolution, “Marat/Sade” director Stanton Davis stresses the timelessness of the world in which this production takes place, calling it “dystopian and re-imagined, much like a modern dysfunctional society.”

Davis also described how the use of non-traditional casting raises many questions regarding the balance of gender and power. The gulag is “…a place where people are sent to be silenced” and, although the asylum is designed for women, there is a sense that even the guards and nurses lack free will.

Further developing the contemporary themes of the play, Davis said his production features original score and sound design by Anthony Perrella, and original choreography by Dani Bitout. “Modern movement and music create an iconic contemporary imagery,” he said.

Pauline Oleksy’s set design seems to echo Davis’ sentiment. “We were aiming for a sense of vertigo by creating a kinetic, cyclical ground-plan,” Oleksy said, “all while keeping the space as interactive as possible for the actors.”

Photo of a red liquid being dropped into a beakerJared Mack, MFA in acting candidate, said the run of the play is perfectly timed to be performed in conjunction with Halloween.

“This play simultaneously glorifies and mocks methods of torture and capital punishment,” Mack said. He also noted the play’s elements of disguises and gender-bending because he portrays the role of one of the lead female characters.

Davis agreed about the play’s tone. “It’s very dark and sinister,” he said. “The set is fairly mad scientist-esque.”

“Marat/Sade” runs from Thursday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Oct. 26, and from Thursday, Oct. 30, through Saturday, Nov. 1. Performances will take place at Huntley Middle School auditorium, 1515 S Fourth St. in DeKalb.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sunday and the second Saturday. Tickets are available online or by calling the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at (815) 753-1600. Ticket prices are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

This production of “Marat/Sade” is not appropriate for children and is considered PG-13. The production is also not affiliated with DeKalb Community Unit School District 428.