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Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus review at Booth Theatre, New York – ‘Taylor Mac’s laborious comedy’

Nathan Lane in Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus at Booth Theatre, New York. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Taylor Mac, the radically subversive theatre artist, and Nathan Lane, America’s stage comedy sweetheart, make an unlikely pairing.

Lane is the star of Mac’s new play Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus. It’s been labelled a comedy, but it’s more of an experimental deconstruction of capitalism and political apathy. There are laughs, but they thin out quickly. While the shift in tone is intentional, the execution is muddy and laborious.

In this “sequel,” a street clown called Gary, played by Lane, and a palace maid, Janice (Kristine Nielsen), are left to mop up the blood following Shakespeare’s Roman massacre.

This causes Gary to have an epiphany. He wants downtrodden Janice to join him in staging an artistic coup while she just wants to get on with cleaning up after the powerful.  Gary’s hope is that this trio of outsiders – him, Janice and Julie White’s blood-spurting midwife – could change the world by working together.

Mac’s play combines farting corpse gags with a sly commentary on the rising up of the politically powerless. Though ambitious, it’s neither funny enough nor tragic enough; it’s also frequently hard to follow. Director George C Wolfe’s clamorous production does not help matters. There’s a real lack of clarify. With its massive mound of floppy dead bodies and exaggerated sound effects, the production feels like a fever dream. Parts of the play are written in dense verse and rhyming couplets delivered with questionable Cockney accents. While Lane slides easily from penis puppetry to pensive clowning, Nielsen and White flounder.

The ideas behind the play are meaty but they get obscured by the dancing naked corpses. In case I’ve made this sound fun, it’s not – it’s really not.

Taylor Mac: ‘Spending 24 hours on stage is the easiest part – getting the support is hard’

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Though Nathan Lane does his utmost, it’s not enough to save this awkward mix of political commentary and broad comedy