God save the king

Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus thought life was absurd, but all the more meaningful for it. His contemporaries Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir thought him a cut-rate intellectual because he had a sentimental side.

As early as 25, Camus was aware of the conflict between his brain and his heart: life-sucks dogmatism vs. it-ain't-so-bad-if-you-live-it-right optimism. He penned a play called Caligula, or The Meaning of Death that turned the short life of the sexually voracious, homicidal Roman emperor into a brittle morality play that suggests there are far worse fates than death. Our Endeavors, a new Dallas company founded by Undermain artists Patti Kirkpatrick and Scott Osborne, has assembled an impressive cast of local talent for this, their "for mature audiences only" sophomore production. Dalton James, Mark Farr, Laurel Hoitsma, and playwright David Goodwin are among the performers.

"We took out references to Rome and that period, and have set the production in a place we call 'The Empire,'" says executive producer Patti Kirkpatrick. "And we got into the Swiss Avenue Theater and really tore it up, transforming it so we could do an arena-style staging."

Spectators will witness a contest between cowardly Caligula (James) and hopeful Cherea (Farr), a courtier who acts as the voice of Camus. The prize? An answer to the question: Is it possible to find meaning in a world where so much is silly, random, and cruel?

A more fitting question for wary ticket-buyers: Is it possible to enjoy a live, two-hour meditation on the meaning of life? Our Endeavors pulled off a real coup with a funny, engaging production of Richard Foreman's My Head Was a Sledgehammer, which featured no plot, no characters, and no overt themes. Kirkpatrick hopes to score another hit with this "sensationalistic" production.

"There's plenty of drama and comedy," she promises.

Caligula opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 2. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday through April 26. Call (972) 355-2879.


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