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CALIGULA!

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Caligula
by Albert Camus

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

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Albert Camus’s absurdist drama Caligula chronicles the last three years in the brief and twisted life of ancient Rome’s most off-the-rails emperor as an examination of the prerogatives and perils of ultimate power. Medicine Show Theatre’s Off-Off-Broadway revival of the 1944 play refrains from drawing specific links to any current American politicians, but if you find yourself thinking of a certain resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, well, that’s all on you.

02_Caligula_092The poetic script draws a vivid picture of life in the First Century A.D. Roman court, where aristocrats are held hostage, taunted, and often executed on the young emperor’s gruesome whim. His absolute power corrupts him absolutely and, with so many of his old friends and spouses abruptly dead, he has nothing left but to secretly aid in the plot to assassinate…himself.

02_Caligula_050Richard Keyser presents an intense and frightening Caligula. He toys with his victims like a cat with a mouse, often employing a sneering sarcasm as a prelude to the knife. Among the best of his victim are the stoic Cherea (Janine Georgette) and his genuinely loving but corrupted Caesona (Demetrius Blocker), both cast non-traditionally.

02_Caligula_069The new translation by company member Chris Brandt walks a careful and smart line between being too stiff and unnatural, and too contemporary and colloquial. Caligula’s warped reasoning is articulated with a terrible clarity.

02_Caligula_088Also in the cast: Diana Westphal, Samuel Muniz, Christopher Cunningham, David Elyha, Alex Miskin, Mario Peguero, Perri Yaniv, and Joe Rivera.

02_Caligula_029The new translation by company member Chris Brandt walks a careful and smart line between being too stiff and unnatural, and too contemporary and colloquial. Caligula’s warped reasoning is articulated with a terrible clarity.

02_Caligula_028The rarely-revived drama was last seen on Broadway in 1960, directed by Sidney Lumet, with Kenneth Haigh in the title role and Colleen Dewhurst as Caesonia.

02_Caligula_015Directed by Mark J. Dempsey, Caligula is being presented as the 2018-19 season opener of The Medicine Show Theatre company at the Ensemble Studio Theatre space, 545 West 52nd Street, Manhattan. Performances continue through October 14.

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