Saturday, March 25, 2023
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Gary a sequel to Titus Andronicus starring Nathan Lane

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Titus who? General Titus Andronicus was a fictional character in Shakespeare’s first and only fictional revenge tragedy that takes place during the fall of the Roman Empire. He returns from battle only to discover that most of his sons have been slaughtered. And just about everyone else. The bloody battles might be over but the bodies have been piling up in the streets and must be disposed of.

Enter Taylor Mac an intensely intelligent playwright with a wicked sense of dark humor who takes up where Titus left off with three clowns and a massive pile of make-believe life size cabbage patch doll-like casualties of war with a slew of body parts: arms, legs, decapitated heads and the almighty Roman schlongs now flaccid, who relate in a low-brow comedic style – think Marx brothers – the consequences of what has happened and what might follow.

In 90 minutes. Give or take how many laughs pile up during the performance. And there are many.

First up is Carol a midwife, not rich; not poor but somewhere in the middle who has had her throat slashed. This zany midwife, who carries a great guilt as she couldn’t save a baby, is portrayed by the inimitable Julie White in full comic command. She fills us in in front of the blood red and gold show curtain while blood spurts from either side of her neck splashing her hands and stage with the rose colored liquid.

There has been a massacre. She has only been fatally wounded. We discover that the baby belonged to Lavina, the daughter of Titus (remember him?) had with Aaron the Moor (I have had some help from Wikipedia) and the curtain rises on all those bodies with Janice (Kristine Nielsen) a no-nonsense maid that no one ever noticed in all her spastic glory is tending the pile and mopping up Carol’s blood as her new assistant Gary arrives with more bodies and a Cockney accent.

As a mere clown he has been upgraded “maid” with the hope of becoming a fool. For only a fool can save the world. He’s the optimist.

Gary was a minor character in Titus – a “cameo” but a clown nonetheless and here Nathan Lane can be crowned Prince of Clowns with his incredible performance.

The stage is set and what follows is hysterical, gross, instructional (prepping the bodies – ridding the bodies of left over cadaver gasses and bodily fluids) a mad hatter tea party (that detours into territory that attempts to sustain the momentum of the play, here and there a fart or two, a very unexpected and surprising finale and some very serious issues snuck in between all the tomfoolery which enacted by any other clowns would not be as successful.

The play, as it turns out, is very serious highbrow stuff disguised in rhyming couplets and very funny dialogue. Gussied up in the guise of low comedy. It works until it gets repetitive and begins to run out of gas.

The woman and children corpses are covered up. The men exposed for what they are. Gary and Carol tend to only the men for as Carol states –“There has never been a female Emperor and so the men must be held responsible” – or something like that. It’s just another rough day on the job, cleaning up the mess that those in power have created.

Briskly and slyly directed by George C. Wolfe with movement by Bill Irwin. Set by Santo Loquasto with costumes by Ann Roth.

If this sounds like your cup of tea by all means go and partake in all the lunacy onstage at the BOOTH THEATRE. I rather enjoyed it.

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

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