Peter Weiss writesat the edge of the bearable. Marat/Sade, his best-known play, assaults us mainly through the perpetual motion and emotion of a background of actors imprisoned in lunacy. Weiss’ scenic directions emphasize their shock function: “Their presence must set the atmosphere behind the acting area. They make habitual movements, turn in circles, hop, mutter to themselves, wail, scream, and so on.” The Investigation, an oratorio, rivets us to a dry recitative for the fiendish routine at the concentration camp. Staged as a trial, the oratorio divides into the testimony of Nazi defendants, who have names, and their plaintiff victims, who have numbers. Though the play is staged as a trial, it is accurately entitled Investigation—into the way detention routine develops into inventive sadism, into the way maps and statistics burst into barbarism.
In The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey the center is neither lunacy nor deat...
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