Rutgers Theater Company presents Peter Weiss’ "Marat/Sade"

The year 1808 collides with 2011 in Peter Weiss’ charged play 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. Marat/Sade runs from Friday, February 4, through Saturday, February 19, 2011, at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater. Anders Cato directs.

In the show, which premiered in the early 1960s, Sade restages scenes of the French Revolution—and slain revolutionary Marat’s last hours—with patients in an insane asylum. The central question that arises: Should one be moved to social action, even violence, as Marat proposed, or is social justice a hopelessly outmoded ideal?

“To be engaged politically [these days] feels naive,” Cato, the director, says. “To believe in social justice and equality feels like we haven’t read our history books. But can I just sit back and watch things that are wrong?”

The play lunges forward with its nervy cast of characters, employing song, mime and original music by composer Jack Bender to negotiate the argument with bursts of youthful energy. And the issues at stake—including one’s connection (or lack thereof) to the wider community—remain relevant 200 years on.

“We can use Weiss’ investigation of [social change in 1808 and the 1960s] to investigate 2011,” Cato insists. “What is our sense of duty in terms of being engaged members of the community where we take action to change things? In the age of capitalism and the Internet, where is our place of commitment to social change? The questions of the play are not obsolete in any way.”

Marat/Sade runs from Friday, February 4 through Saturday, February 19, 2011. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors and only $15 for students with valid ID. The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 732-932-7511.

Photo by Larry Levanti