Marat/Sade: 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, Hypocrites, at the Viaduct Theatre. Peter Weiss’s alternately exhilarating and maddening play, in which a group of inmates assassinate French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat under the direction of the Marquis de Sade, is a challenging, Brechtian work. But the Hypocrites often prove themselves up to the task. Director Sean Graney generally emphasizes the script’s comedic, carnivalesque aspects over its chilling drama, but deeply committed performances by Sean Marlow as Marat and Will Schutz as de Sade give intellectual rigor to their debates about the nature of man and the efficacy of revolution.

The main problem with this ambitious, inventive, visually arresting production is that whenever the lunatics are running the asylum–a fairly common occurrence in Weiss’s play–well-choreographed chaos is replaced by an unfocused mess, and diction and clarity are sacrificed to unintelligible shouting. In this din the compelling songs, which decry the persistence of the underclass even after the revolution and give a brief history lesson about the events after Marat’s death, are nearly impossible to decipher (except for the choruses). That’s a shame, because when one can understand the actors without straining, Weiss’s dialogue is well worth hearing.

–Adam Langer