Review by Lee Roscoe
In Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus by Taylor Mac, Shakespeare’s most violent play is the backdrop for a Grand Guignol folly at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT).
Gary (Layla Khoshnoudi), a clown, is assigned by higher orders to assist Janice (A.J. Clauss), the maid, in cleaning up the mess after the brutality against Titus Andronicus by his enemies, including the emperor, and his subsequent revenge.
Amidst piles of life-sized, rag-doll, white, cotton-stuffed corpses, cleverly designed by Jacob A. Climer, Gary aspires to become a fool, a higher calling than mere clown, and, as the play progresses, to make Janice the empress. He also aspires to make a better world by creating “Foolins,” which will capture the court’s heart with comedy to make them see the error of their inhumanity. This leads to bickering with Janice, a realist who accepts her station in life and that class inequities are the status quo, as is the brutality of the “autocracy, democracy, autocracy”—no matter how much she mourns Lavinia, Titus’ raped and mutilated daughter.
All Janice wants is for Gary to do his job, dismembering the corpses for the clean-up prior to the inauguration of a new emperor. As they bicker with each other and bemoan the catastrophe of the world’s brutality, they often speak in rhyming couplets. The play is like a Shakespeare vaudeville act with his comic commoners as leading, rather than secondary, characters. And it is the clever language and non-sequiturs such as, “Never share the stage with a baby dressed as a fish,” which make a play with a less than hefty story, funny and watchable. As does the zany Monty Python/Spike Milligan-like shtick: waving corpse penises, setting a table for tea, singing pop songs in Latin. (Although quintessentially British, played with sometimes hard to understand Cockney accents, playwright Mac, a Macarthur Genius Grant awardee, is American).
From out of the piles of corpses, emerges Carol (Lacy Allen), asking “Did someone say pie?” referring to serving Titus’ enemies in a pie baked and eaten by their relatives, (harking back to the Greek, Atreus). She is a beautifully dressed middle-class midwife who escaped the carnage but is crazy with guilt at not saving “the baby.”
Gross fake gore and vomit meant to underscore the hyperbole of atrocity which man normalizes is hard to take (undoubtedly the author’s intention), but the acting by Khoshnoudi, a wonderful physical performer, Clauss, with perfect timing, and Allen as the self-affirming Carol, and R.J. Tolan’s direction, make the play shine.
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus is performed on the Julie Harris Stage at WHAT, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet, Tuesdays – Saturdays, 8 p.m. through August 19 (with additional show Monday, August 15). For tickets ($22.50 – $40 with discounts for seniors and students) and information call 508.349.9428 or visit what.org. Wednesday Pay-What-You-Can tickets are available only in person at the box office.