12 MONTROSE VOICE / FEBRUARY 14. 1986
Balm in Gilead, Marat/Sade Share Similarities
By Bill O'Rourke
Montroae Voice Theater Critic
There are two supremely theatrical shows
playing in town now.That's two experiences which would not happen in any other
medium. They are Balm in Gilead (at the
Alley) and Marat/ Sade (at Main Street).
Both surround the audience, admit that
it's there and make it part of the action. At
Marat we become visitors to an insane
asylum at the time of Napoleon. We are
locked in a room with the inmates, who
sometimes stand right behind us for long
periods. At Balm, we stay ourselves but
are encouraged to get up at times and
dance with the characters. We are continually hit up for money by these spare
Both use live music to enhance and comment upon the action, but both rely primarily upon the music of the spoken word.
In Balm, it is, more often than not, street
jive. In Marat, it's a little more courtly. In
both, it often descends into a maelstrom of
cacaphony. That confusion is used to get
gorgeous monologues like gems in filigree
or just to comment to them.
Both plays are also about the failure of a
person who sees the horrorB of the world of
the poor and tries to change it—either for
everyone through a revolution as in
Marat, or just for himself and maybe his
girlfriend in Balm.
really about Mark Hymen and Alexandra
Neil's characters. He's let himself get
trapped into Belling drugs, but wants out.
She'll probably wind up a hooker (like Nto-
zake Shange's character), but isn't at all
sure she belongs there. They should both
flee, but the atmosphere is too seductive. It
is for the audience, too. It is repulsive and
fascinating. We wind up feeling really at
home there and guilty about letting it all
happen, but not any more than anyone
Steven Marcus is Dopey, the narrator of
sorts. His performance as this drugged-out
philosopher is the best among equals in
this ensemble show, well directed by
Cockroaches, Dopey explains, have
always been with man. They are found in
the deepest archeological digs. Not only
that, they also have about the best chance
of surviving a nuclear war. So they'll be
here after we're gone.
"The poor," Christ said, "We have
always with us."
Or, as the song in Marat/ Sade puts it,
"Marat, we're poor, and the poor stay
Th full title of that play is 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. The title, as they
Dopey (Steven mareus) explains the law of the street to Fick (David Gregory)
from his home in a trash dumpster in Lanford Wilson's "Balm in Gilead" now
playing on the Alley's Arena Stage.
Balm in Gilead: Kayce Glasse and Ruth
Adams play dominant lesbians fighting
over a passive one played by Luisa
Amaral-Smith. Paul Hope and Jeff Bennett play the kind of male street prostitutes who are never out of drag. David
Gregory plays the kind of drunk who can't
shut up—a compulsive talker.They are all
interesting and believable, but the story is
say, says it all.
Nearly everyone in this ensemble is
playing an insane person playing a
character—two levels at least. Again,
there are too many good performances to
credit them all. There is Barbara Hartman
in a deep dep_»esion trying to protect her
last loved possession—Marat. There's
also Bruce Ellis speaking only in rhyme as
Barbara Hartman as Simonne Evrard tends the ailing Jean-Paul Mrat played
by Kent Johnson with Bruce Ellis in the background as the Herald in Main
Street Theater's production of "Marat/ Sade."
the narrator and Roberto Argentina in a
straigh.jacket as a renegade priest.
Kent Johnson is in his usual fine form
as a paranoic playing Marat, the great
instigator of the French Revolution. Vicki
Luman trying to fight off her sleep to eloquently describe the horrors of that revolution.
James Black is a chameleon. Everytime
one thinks he might have seen every facet
of this actor's range, one is easily proven
wrong. In this, his dry as dust voice and
his hands folded demurely over his chest
are the epitome of the failed aristocrat.
Jeff Galligan's direction has subtly
brought out the anachronisms in Peter
Weiss's script to point out the universality
of the situation.
Two last points: first, you would probably enjoy either of these shows. Secondly,
you could easily enjoy both of them. There
are enough differences.
As Is, the William Hoffman play about
AIDS, .will be taken on a national tour. It is
uncertain if this tour will play in Houston.
Meanwhile, that has tied up the rights so
that Stages has had to postpone their production of the play until at leaBt July. ...
Celebrate! Today is Valentine's Day! It
is also the 50th anniversary of when driver's licenses became mandatory in Texas.
B'days: 15—Harvey Korman. 16—
Katherine Cornell. 17—Simon Raven,
author of Boys Will Be Boys: The Male
Prostitute in London. George Washington
(observed on the 17th but actually next
Saturday). 19—Carson McCullers. Enjoy!
make believe studio high atop Westheimer.
Jessye Norman (Jones, 14)—The
acclaimed soprano joins Comissiona and
the HSO for Wagner and Strauss.
Johnny Mathis (Arena, 14).
Brer Rabbit (Ensemble, 15, 10:30 and
ONO! means One Night Only
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat (Stages, 14, mornings and weekend afternoons)—musical by Rice and
Fear of Ducks! (Radio Music Theater,
14)—More madcap madness from the
David Copperfieid will dazzle audiences
with his magic at Jones Hall on the
Children's Collections (Children's
Museum, 15, noon-4 p.m.)—ONO!
Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia
(Museum of Fine Arts, 15)—the first major
retrospective of his photographs and films
to tour in 20 years.
Gone to Texas (Children's Museum, 16,
2:00 p.m.)— the Chocolate Bayou production. ONO!
Matt Haimovitz (Jones, 16, 2:30)—The
young cellist joins Comissiona and the
HSO for an afternoon of romantic hits.