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Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Posted 4/26/19

Gary reviewed  by Fern Siegel for

Gary’s subtitle describes itself as a sequel to a little-known Shakespeare play. More truthfully, it can be described as a handbook for dealing with contemporary America. In short, the play is not for the faint of heart.

When the titular character (Nathan Lane) walks out on stage at the Booth Theater, hired to clean up the carnage caused by those far above his station and begins cracking jokes, you understand escapist entertainment. It’s all about coping.

You also know you’re in a weird new Broadway zone.

The play doesn't have a strong plot; instead, it is formed in a Waiting for Godot mode — three people muse over their lot in life. 

And they keep the audience fully engaged for 90 minutes, touching on everything from crap jobs, capitalism, politics, the millennial/boomer divide, selfishness and personal loss.

The bottom-line question: How does one respond to so much evil?

It sounds like a dark, difficult query. But playwright Taylor Mac’s answer is to respond with comedy and graphic depictions of the violence. If the original Shakespeare was bloody, trust the sequel to top it.

All three members of the ensemble cast do fantastic work. Nathan Lane as Gary does a remarkable job sustaining the mirth and energy of the show — and happily, with only minimal shtick. Kristine Nielsen, playing an angry domestic servant, is an actress at the top of her craft. Her role as Janice is akin to a piano concerto written for three hands. It’s never intended to be played, but somehow, she pulls it off.

Julie White's work as Carol, the midwife who delivered the illegitimate child of Tamora and Aaron, provides the perfect pitch hysterical reaction of someone never sure if they are dead and in hell.

Despite three admirable performances, the true star of the show is Taylor Mac. The tight, witty and cutting dialogue is a difficult balance between dense prose and on point delivery. Audiences may want to secure a script, in order to savor the small pieces they may have missed.

Santo Loquasto’s design perfectly balances gore with a cartoonist’s esthetic; Ann Roth’s costumes work, too. It’s easy to see Gary, in part, as a comment on our current political climate: Donald Trump surrounded by dirty scandals that keep piling up and overwhelm its citizenry.  —Fern Siegel