Theater of the absurd

Camus' Caligula is too much hot air and not enough heat

Hopefully, Our Endeavors will have the fortitude and resources to push on with a third production, and may I recommend reuniting as many of these actors as possible? Dalton James draws liberally from both bottomless wells inside him--childlike sincerity and scary rage--and adds a playfulness to the king's insanity that earned suitably uncomfortable but much-needed laughs. A peroxided Mark Farr commands a seething mob with crisp, eloquent authority, all the more surprising for his little-boy looks. David Goodwin, a playwright who made an impressive stab at philosophical musings on the perception of reality in his own script Exposure, carries out his master's nefarious commands with weaselly sensuality. Undermain member Laurel Hoitsma teeters on the edge of parody with her heaving cleavage and teased hair, but she has the least rounded of the major roles: French existentialists weren't famous for their feminism. Caligula lets them all shine in disjointed moments, but if this quartet were corralled for a more earthbound script and a more focussed production, their unique talents would harmonize into some truly beautiful theater.

Caligula, or The Meaning of Death runs through April 26. Call (972) 355-2879.

Cora Cardona, artistic director of Teatro Dallas, can't help but veer into politics while discussing The Incredible and Sad Story of the Candid Erendira and Her Soulless Grandmother, even though the play is, by her own definition, "just a fairy tale."

"There are no political words in it," Cardona says of this U.S. premiere, her own English translation of Chilean playwright Jorge Diaz's adaptation of a story by literary lion Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "But just like in Cinderella, I can't help but see the story of imperialism and revolt. Cinderella is an indentured servant within her own house; she has revolutionaries in the form of mice and a fairy godmother, to set her free. When I tell people about my interpretation, they always say: 'What?'"

Cardona sees parallels between that fairy tale and The Candid Erendira and Her Soulless Grandmother, which she is directing. The Diaz adaptation of Marquez's magical realist tale finds a 13-year-old girl (Susanna Guzman) who slaves as a prostitute to support her cruel grandmother (Christie Vela). On a long journey through the desert, the two of them meet a surrealistic sideshow of characters both dangerous and sympathetic, one of whom (Brian Matthews) she falls in love with.

"This play has been performed once in New York, and my daughter saw it in Costa Rica, adapted to a Cuban perspective," Cardona says. "But both were overtly political shows, and both were in Spanish. Translating the script wasn't too difficult, even Marquez's poetic passages. His images are very simple; they cross cultural lines. With some Marquez, though, he starts out with one thought and wanders into a million others in the same breath. That's the Arabic influence on the Spanish language."

The Candid Erendira and Her Soulless Grandmother is not, she's aware, what some multiculturalists expect from a self-described "Latino theater."

"Many Anglos and Latinos have certain expectations of what we should do," she says. "They expect us to serve Doritos and Cheech and Chong. Or they want me to be up there performing mariachi. So sometimes they're disappointed. But if you try and please everybody, something's lost in the process."

The Incredible and Sad Story of the Candid Erendira and Her Soulless Grandmother opens Friday, April 17 and runs through May 16. Call 741-1135.

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