For the past five years, James Graham ’07 and his theatre company, The Howland Company, have been adapting a German play about love in a time of economic anxiety, and the result of his hard work is finally on stage.
Casimir and Caroline is a modern retelling of a 1932 Ödön von Horváth play of the same name that is set during Oktoberfest at a Munich beer hall. In the original, the main character is fired from his job. That night, his girlfriend drags him to a party hoping it will cheer them both up, “but right off the top of the show, they have a big fight,” Graham says. “You start to wonder if their relationship is going to survive the night.” Howland’s adaptation relocates the action to a Toronto office party, but its main themes remain relevant.
“The idea is how the socioeconomic circumstances of all of these characters affect their relationships,” Graham says. “And what has been both amazing but also very deeply sad is that the play only became more relevant since we first adapted it.”
Graham’s love for theatre started during his time at UCC—he performed in Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Macbeth. He went on to study theatre at Northwestern University and, in 2013, co-founded The Howland Company with a collective of young artists. Since then, they have built an award-winning ensemble and one of the most exciting indie companies in the city.
One of the company’s key goals is to “engage with the stories of our time,” Graham says, so when a company member brought up von Horváth’s play, they knew a modern adaptation was something they wanted to pursue. “It's a big ensemble piece about young people, which is core to our mandate.”
Graham says the play is “The Office meets Succession for millennials,” a compelling and intriguing description. Casimir and Caroline runs at Streetcar Crowsnest until February 9, and tickets are available at www.howlandcompanytheatre.com/casimir-and-caroline.