Saturday, July 23, 2011
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
Luckily, the terrifying 19th century world of the original setting does allow for vague modernization to explore Thorpe's chosen themes, even if the specifics of her Canadian history expose don't survive the translation. Those shiny white-tiled walls painted with opaque, un-washable blood stains could be anywhere, anytime when the mistreatment of the mentally ill taints history. With the limitations of the frame, Thorpe succeeds in stripping Marat/Sade from its time period but doesn't quite succeed in adding her own.
How each ensemble member blends these frame characters with their roles from the Marat side of the story varies from actor to actor. Some, like the wonderful Hearther Marie Annis, infuse their Sade-assigned character with the afflictions of their mental patient. Others seem to use their historical characters as a basis for creating their frame personas.
Among the talented cast, four performers really stand out.
On the other end of the scale, Kat Letwin's performance as the Herald is loud, exuberant and what one might call "zany". She leads the play and the play-within-the-play with a sort of source-less authority that's at once admirable and vaguely threatening. Her frame character bops ignorantly along with music but will slip into a stupor when touched sinisterly. In a balls-to-the-wall performance, Letwin attacks both levels of the role full throttle, even making sense of her ridiculous Dr. Seuss-like couplets. It's that precarious line between too much and not enough that Letwin walks beautifully.
The final performer who really caught my attention is Katrina Carey as Simonne Evrard. Striking an excellent balance between her frame character’s ailment and her historical role as Marat’s caretaker, Carey delivers arguably the most believable performance of the lot. Her Simonne, uselessly and blindly loyal, is palpable as she develops a heartbreakingly truthful one-sided chemistry with the man she lives to protect. It would be easy to overlook Carey when she’s flanked by such strong performers in much flashier roles, but to miss her nuanced performance would be a real shame.
The rest of the ensemble is similarly devoted to their performances in what is Soup Can’s best effort yet. Last year’s cabaret Love is a Poverty You Can Sell marked a very strong beginning for the young company and with Marat/Sade they’ve proved that they’re just getting started.