A New York Theatre Guide to... Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus!
Here's all you need to know about Broadway's hysterical new comedy...
Broadway has gotten a little absurd… and that’s a good thing! The Broadway premiere of Taylor Mac’s new comedy Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus began previews at the Booth Theatre on March 11 and officially opened on April 21. This raucous limited engagement is currently scheduled to close on August 4, 2019.
What’s it all about?
Ever wondered what happened in the aftermath of Shakespeare’s most bloodiest of tragedies? Titus Andronicus famously ended with a banquet-turned-massacre scene that many have described as perhaps the most gory in the bard’s playwriting history. And now we’re left with just one question… Who’s going to have to clean up all this mess?! Enter Janice, a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact maid, and her new assistant Gary, a down-on-his-luck clown. As Janice begins to instruct her reluctant colleague on how to drain a corpse of its bodily fluids (as well as any gaseous leftovers), it soon becomes clear that Gary is perhaps not quite the man for the job. He has other aspirations... namely to become the next Emperor’s fool and launch a genre of fooling that will ‘save the world’. Throw in the almost-slaughtered, now half-crazed midwife ‘Carol’ from Shakespeare’s gruesome tragedy and you have a recipe for absurdist comedy heaven.
Who’s starring in it?
The cast of Gary is led by Broadway royalty in the shape of three-time Tony Award winner Nathan Lane as the titular character. An expert clown in his own right, we can’t imagine anyone else than Lane in this role and if you haven’t yet seen this master of comic timing treading the boards, you haven’t yet lived. Theatre novices will probably know him from his acclaimed onscreen performances, including the role of Albert Goldman (and drag queen alter ego Zaza) opposite Robin Williams in “The Birdcage” or the reprisal of his Tony Award-winning performance as Max Bialystock in the film adaptation of “The Producers”. He is also the voice of meerkat Timon from Disney’s hit animated classic “The Lion King” and has recently appeared in such TV series as “Penny Dreadful” and “Modern Family”. Lane’s co-stars, both currently nominated for a Tony Award in the category of “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play”, are Kristine Nielsen and Julie White as Janice and Carol, respectively.
What’s special about this production?
We’re not sure if Broadway has ever seen a play quite like Gary before. Taylor Mac has made a career out of defying convention and his Broadway debut here is no exception. The visual gags are universally appealing and there’s no shortage of base humor with relentless penis and farting jokes and yet the piece, at just 95 minutes in length, works on so many levels, acting as an allegory for the current political climate in the United States. Today’s society is constantly revelling in sensationalism and chasing one conflict after the next. Gary and Janice are caught in that cycle with hilarious consequences. Kudos to scenic designer Santo Loquasto for the mass of corpses stacked high like a hoarder’s paradise, further emphasizing the chaotic nature of the comedy. And kudos to all for the coup de théâtre towards the end of the play (no spoilers here) and to all three cast members, who once again prove their excellence in both physical comedy and delivery.
Who would we recommend it to?
Although an in-depth knowledge of Titus Andronicus isn’t essential, it would certainly be advantageous to be aware of the play’s basic plot before seeing Gary, as some of the grizzly events are directly referenced in the comedy (e.g. the characters of Chiron and Demetrius ending up as the ingredients of a pie or the character of Lavinia’s cruel handling as her rapists proceed to cut off her hands and tongue). Julie White’s character of Carol is also a minor character from Titus, who delivers a mixed-race baby conceived in adultery. In general, we’d recommend this new production to those who enjoy the works of esteemed playwrights such as Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard or Samuel Beckett. There are plentiful nods to the Theatre of the Absurd and to plays such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or Waiting for Godot for the high-brow theatregoer in attendance.
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus Tickets are available now.
(Photos by Julieta Cervantes)