Presented by Arouet
Written by Albert Camus
World Premiere Translation by Christopher Williams
Directed by Joshua Jon
May 13th through May 28th
7pm, Ballard Underground
Minutes before 7pm, when Caligula was set to begin, I was sitting in my car in typical Seattle traffic, cursing my city and the people who drive in it. It had been a very trying day, to be honest I had one of those, crying in your car because life sometimes just doesn’t happen moments. All I wanted was to be in the theatre with my friends and watch a radical play about chaos and destruction go down. I just wanted to watch the world burn from my safe place in the bowels of Ballard, from the safety of the theatre seats at the Underground. “That will really cheer me up,” I thought, and boy was I right.
Truthfully, the text of Caligula is not generally one that people smile at. It is heavy, destructive, and at times, hard to watch. Joshua Jon and the team at Arouet however, make this show easier to process and take in as a modern audience. They bring these seemingly unbelievable circumstances into our contemporary world and show us how very, very close we are to this reality. And then, as soon as you have grimaced, they offer up laughs and incredibly beautiful moments that I have found myself replaying in my mind in the days following. These are actors reaching into the depths of insanity here and they do so with aplomb. Luke Sayler reigns supreme as the title role of Caligula, bellowing orders, brainstorming new madness at every turn and right when you think you couldn’t hate him more, he flashes you these unbelievable puppy dog eyes and…maybe we should hear him out? Danielle Daggerty as Caesonia is unstoppable, she begins as a calm, wise voice of reason and by the end of the show, she is almost unrecognizable. There were several times where I just wanted to reach out and hug her. Richard Sean Glen as Helicon is menacinly delightful. Helicon himself has nothing to loose so he indulges Caligula at every request, maybe as a way of surviving but we also get the feeling that he also finds joy in this madness as well. Some of my favorite moments of the show were the two of them scheming, Caligula and Helicon, matching wits back and forth and in a more tender beat later in the show, painting each others nails.
There are many moments of this show that almost, if you aren’t paying attention, come from out of left field. Fights break out, an impromptu interpretive dance piece, a poetry slam- but then also madness, cruelty, chaos, from out of nowhere. But therein lies the beauty of it all. There is order within chaos. We, the survived, the living, have to find it and bring it to the surface. Director (and Arouet Artistic Director) Joshua Jon is doing just that. He has choreographed this unthinkable cruelty, this total destruction of a country, to dance around the most tender moments in this show in order to find a brilliant balance. I was awestruck by the whole production.
Later I found myself describing the experience as, “Both thought provoking and subtly sultry. Borderline seductive at times and also thoroughly disturbing.” So basically, my favorite kind of theatre. This production of Caligula has been handled with care, love and just the right amount of insane urgency that only fringe theatre can truly bring to the stage. Bravo, Arouet.
GO. NOW. This production deserves your presence.
By Chelsea Madsen