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*
Theatre of the Absurd isn’t fashionable anymore. It’s a style that has faded as surely as 18th century mannerist plays. But I miss the old guard: Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, for example, and wonder why their visions, so startling and so full of protest, don’t draw an audience in a world full of madness. We still have holocausts raging in Darfur or the Congo or the Sudan. We are still fighting wars to end wars. We continue to describe a mother and child blown up by a misfired bomb as collateral damage. If there was ever a time when we needed writers who can magnify our insanities to make them clear, it is now.
(“The Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David)
So where are they, these men attuned to our lunacies? Have they become blind to the absurdity of our pouring billions of dollars into Pakistan, a country whose leaders gave shelter to Osama Bin Laden? And what of our “friends” in Saudi Arabia? Where is there a Beckett to illuminate the money trail that leads from them to al-Qaeda (Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan, “The Kingdom and the Towers”)? We need an absurdist to show us the folly of slaughtering herds of endangered elephants so that their tusks can be carved into miniature replicas of that majestic animal (“The Agony and Ivory” by Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair August 2011).
Ionesco, Beckett, Pinter, Brecht… where are your disciples? Where are the writers who can hold up a mirror to the madness in Congress – who can reveal the contorted, angry faces of leaders who would rather drag the country to the brink of collapse than compromise?
*Play by David Weiss