If you’ve been searching for an evening of classic French revolutionary theater directed by a sadomasochist and acted out by a bunch of crazies, look no further than UC Berkeley. Get your fill of dramatic social commentary with a gruesome, lecherous twist. Peter Weiss’ Tony Award-winning 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 (aka Marat/Sade) — yes, that is the title — is set to open the spring season at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Playhouse. The play-within-a-play takes place in 1808 at the Charenton asylum, home of the infamous Marquis de Sade. Sade, imprisoned for life for his scandalous books and immorality, has decided to stage a performance based on the murder of French radical Jean-Paul Marat, who was stabbed to death in his bathtub by a nun on the run, one Charlotte Corday. With his charming cast of deranged inmates, the marquis takes delight in dramatizing the struggle between political conformity and true creative freedom in front of his audience, the political officials and high-society types who frequent the asylum’s theatrical productions. Inevitably, chaos ensues and a wide range of “activity” occurs as the actors and audience redefine their ideas of revolution.
From 1801 until his death in 1814, de Sade shacked up at Charenton, writing risqué novels and performing bawdy theatrical experiments as a form of psychotherapy. In 1964, playwright Peter Weiss resurrected the story and wrote a new script to be performed by the “inmates.” Acknowledged as one of the most significant pieces of modern theater, Marat/Sade offers a wide variety of scandalous, deep-seated ideas for politically aware — and voyeuristic — audiences to contemplate.
Marat/Sade, directed by Charles Sneed, runs through March 14 at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Playhouse. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets, from $8 for students to $14 for general admission, are available from 866-468-3399 or Ticketweb.com — Erin Chancy
Sea of dreams
“Beware! Beware!/His flashing eyes, his floating hair!/Weave a circle round him thrice/And close your eyes with holy dread/For he on honey-dew hath fed/And drunk the milk of Paradise.” So wrote that dear ol’ dope fan Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his classic paean to opiates, “Kubla Khan.” The poem plays an important role in Orphans of Delirium, a product of Berkeley’s own poetic visionary, Antero Alli, and his Paratheatrical Research lab. Orphans follows a poet in his attempt to escape mournful sorrow by swimming through a sea of absinthe, only to find himself surrounded by ritualistic dreams (and music by Sylvi Alli). Performances are at 9 p.m. at Berkeley’s Wildcat Studios, 2525 8th St.). $10 suggested donation. For more info, call 510-464-4640. — Stefanie Kalem
Ballet of Algiers
The religious civil war in Algeria has simmered down to an uneasy peace, but a devastating earthquake in that North African country last May shook the confidence of many Algerians. Now the Algerian National Ballet is making its first tour of the United States in order to raise relief funds for the earthquake victims. Thrill to the “Tuareg Dance,” the war dance of the Blue Men of the Hoggar and Tassili desert regions, the “Algerine Dance” from Algiers, and music played on the tball and bendir drums and the oboe-like zorna. The concert is Thursday night (8 p.m.) at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Ave., Oakland. Tickets $25-$40 from AAA-NC.org — Kelly Vance
I’m Late! I’m Late!
Gimmick theatrical events have taken firm hold of Bay Area stages these days. The latest is the 24-Hour PlayFest , presented by Woman’s Will, a hurry-up-and-write-it drill in which seven female playwrights, seven female directors, and some 35 multigendered actors have exactly one day to write, produce, stage, and perform seven new plays. Whew! In case you get bored, there’s also a benefit silent auction. Don’t worry, this is the sixth time they’ve done this — it’s safe. It all happens on Monday, the Ides of March, at Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley (2640 College Ave.). $10-$25 sliding scale. Info: 510-420-0813 or WomansWill.org — Kelly Vance