Photo by Marissa Martin
Written by Alina Mae Wilson
It’s one of those pieces that is both educational as well as intriguing– prior to Friday night I had never heard of the Marquis de Sade, or if I had, his name quickly passed from my memory. But last week I went to see Quills, a play written by Doug Wright and directed over at Golden West College by Tom Amen. The story can be considered less based-on-the-life-of and more loosely-inspired-by-the-life-of–and not the least because there are scenes involving visitations from evil spirits or a talking head. Regardless of technicalities, 18th century France was indeed home to a man called The Marquis de Sade, he was indeed imprisoned for writing stories the Catholic church deemed blasphemous, and he did die inside an insane asylum. Quills focuses on his time spent inside the Charenton Asylum, and the lengths to which the Marquis will go to make his voice heard. It’s an interesting storyline with beautiful language, but the actors could have used extra rehearsal time to prepare for the more passionate scenes.
The head doctor Royer-Collard is presiding over the Charenton Asylum. When he is visited by Renee Pelagie she insists that he stop her husband (the Marquis de Sade) from writing in order to solidify her social standing as someone of worth. The resident priest, Abbe de Coulmier meets to discuss the prisoner with the doctor and upon reading the stories, is horrified. Arguments prove futile and the remainder of the show is an escalation of methods to stifle the Marquis’s creative genius, with the Marquis foiling their attempts in increasingly grotesque ways.
Given that the premise of the story is that there is a man who won’t stop writing about violent and blasphemous intercourse, it’s not unreasonable to be turned off (pun intended). But the reality is that this play is more than an onslaught gruesome tortures and maniacal sex jokes-though it does have both in abundance. It’s the story of a test and a trial. And if you can stand it, a chance for some introspection. How far would you be willing to go for freedom of speech? Is freedom of speech necessary, regardless of the sordid content? How should those who take offense respond (personally I don’t think torture is the answer, but hey, we can have a discussion)? And just how responsible are speakers for the consequences of their words? Given the current political and social climate, these are very fair questions, and pondering them after the show makes for an interesting dinner conversation. Speaking of which, the flow of discourse in Quills is near priceless, with classical sounding language that is almost lyrical.
Some of the actors were decidedly out of touch with their characters during certain scenes. Not all of them and not all the time, but enough to make me think they could have done with just a little more time to rehearse. Because he is featured so heavily in the show, I will use Paul Jasser as an example. Jasser plays the Marquis de Sade, and his smug countenance works wonders for certain moments in the show. It is fair to say that the Marquis is a smug individual. But it would have been beneficial for director Tom Amen to have asked him to change it up a bit more often. I am thinking of a specific moment involving the Marquis and desperate pleas for his writing utensils which would have benefitted from some reconsideration. Special mention of the night goes to Scott Keister as the Doctor Royer-Collard and Carrie Theodossin as Renee Pelagie. Although the play is written for the Marquis and the priest, Keister and Theodossin each do a fine job presenting their characters as real people with humanistic motivations. Quills is a fine show and I would encourage mature audiences over 17 to go.
INAPPROPRIATE FOR PATRONS UNDER 18
full male nudity in the show