After a battle, who is left to clean up the mess? Taylor Mac's new play attempts to answer this question, in the new comedy Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus. In the play, Mac takes on one of Shakespeare's most grisly tragedies and has written a comedic sequel, albeit one that is not sure what it wants to be.
Nathan Lane stars as the titular character, alongside Kristine Nielsen as Janice, and Julie White as Carol. In the opening, it is White who introduces us to what we are about to see, and introduces us to Lane's Gary. He is a former clown, fed up with his job and takes the job of cleaning up after the carnage because it pays better and he won't be laughed at all the time. When the curtains finally open to reveal the carnage that has taken place, you start to wonder if Gary might be regretting his choice.
Of course with that many bodies, you can't have one person clean it all up. Nielsen's Janice teaches Gary what to do with the dead bodies. It is at this moment that the comedy takes a turn for the gratuitous and excessive. After a while, watching Gary and Janice shove the air out of and remove fecal matter from bodies becomes unnecessarily crude. While I won't spoil the fate of all those bodies, it takes a turn for the ridiculous, though it is one of the funnier moments that feels justified in the play, rather than uncalled for.
The play's comedy works the best with White, who balances the humor well with the play's more serious and pensive moments. And while Lane does well during the comedic sections, it is the moments when Gary reflects on the carnage, how he wants to change the world, and those left behind that he leaves the most impact.
The standout elements of the play are not necessarily the performances, but Santo Loquasto's set and Ann Roth's costumes. They make the world of Gary come to live in most lavishly grotesque way you can think of, eliciting gasps of surprise from the audience. While Mac's play is built on a fascinating premise, it falls on its face in some places. But when it succeeds, it works beautifully.