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Pretentious is as Pretentious Does

July 16, 2011

Louis David, "Marat Assassiné"

With a title like 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, any audience member worth the price of his seat should already know he’s in for a pretentious evening at the theatre. And Peter Weiss does not disappoint. The overall feel of the play is a battle between Francis Bacon and Friedrich Nietzsche as told by Immanuel Kant. And just as Kant’s philosophy is fascinating, but terrible in both execution and truthfulness, so goes the play.

Marat/Sade follows Bertolt Brecht into “theatre of alienation” territory. In doing so, the Inmates’ screw ups, hang ups, manias, and derangements are strangely part of the play and remind us, Kant-style, that the line between reality and non-reality is a blurry one. That is, if it actually exists. The result is an interesting conceptualization of a story, but not an actual story. It feels more like a trippy philosophy class. And, while I love philosophy, I’ve found that I prefer my life mostly Kantless, especially when it comes to the theatre.

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