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Caesura: A Butchery at the Plagiarists | Theater review

The Plagiarists’ contemporized Caesar remix is more than the sum of its parts.

The Plagiarists bill this Julius Caesar redux as an “apocalyptic mash-up.” They could have just as easily gone with “English major’s wet dream.” Fusing together works from Shakespeare, Voltaire and T.S. Eliot, adapters Gregory Peters, Matt Miller and Jack Dugan Carpenter boil down the Bard’s epic tragedy to a tight, digestible 90-minute exploration of desire gone awry and ambition turned brutal. The narrative surrounding the Roman emperor and his conspirators remains mostly the same. Snippets from Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and various other works are sprinkled in to highlight thematic points by choruslike “witnesses” (and occasional Radiohead cover singers) Atra Asdou, Brynne Barnard and Lauren Pizzi.

The result is more cohesive than it ought to be and, despite its subtitle, more compassionate than it lets on. Carpenter’s fast-paced, specific direction helps Caesura hide its seams. Save a few minor overreaches—an incomplete attempt at promenade staging and a needless coke-infused preshow bacchanalia—this poetry-montage plays out like a contemporary piece, active and relevant. As Cassius, Caesar’s charismatic and scorned regicide mastermind, Layne Manzer exhibits lyrical knowledge of the classic text—a quality exemplified by this young cast.