By Tulis McCall
I saw this show days ago. I am still in stun mode. I rarely cannot find a place to start, but this production is so slippery that it keeps wiggling out of my hands. It doesn’t get far, of course, because like so many of the victims that are piled high on the stage, it is missing ambulatory appendages that will take it anywhere.
I cannot say with certainty what the play is about. Oh, it takes place in a mortuary of sorts in Rome circa 400 or so. The person in charge is Janice (Kristine Nielsen). Janice is not happy. Can we blame her? Her jobs to clean out the bodily fluids and gasses from the many corpses assembled. The person who has been assigned to assist Janice is Gary (Nathan Lane), presently a mere clown but aspiring to be a fool. You can count on more than one hand how many times that aspiration is toyed with. The third character who completes this trinity is Carol (Julie White). Carol is the nurse who witnessed the birth of the mixed race boy by the Goth Tamara —-
Whoops. I have lost you.
No surprise there. Where you really, really, should start is here: Titus Andronicus. I don’t intend for you to actually read the sordid, blood-stained mess. This play makes Goodfelleas look like a walk in the park. But you would do well to breeeze through the wikipedia entry. This, at least, will give you a few names to rocognize as they are bandied, and I use the term loosely, about throughtout this play. In the tale of Titus there are few good people, and them’s the ones that are done wrong in the extreme. The mean people merely slaughter one another and lop off whatever can be lopped. Hands, heads, feet.
It should be a tip-off when Gary surveys the pile of bodies and says, “Me mum always said, ‘When cleaning Gary, ya start at the top and work your way down.'” Up he starts and makes it halfway, then detours across the pile and back down. The rest of the play follows his lead and ends up chasing its own tail. Lane acquits himself well in both verse and prose, even though much of what he says is lost because it makes no sense. Neilsen slides in and out of her bobble-head routine as she usually does when she does not know precisely what she is doing. And Julie White’s shrieks are so rough that the question of whether or not her insurance would cover having her vocal cords plated crosses your mind.
Normal day at the office.
In the end we have no idea what we have watched or why. It was entertaining in an odd sort of way because these three are having a good time. And then there is an ensemble cameo appearance that must set the record for the shortest Equity appearance on Broadway. Ever.
As I was leaving I overheard two men talking. Well one was talking and the other was actively listening and interjecting a few words of one syllable. “…. And so Andrea Martin was supposed to be in this but she hurt her ribs and she couldn’t do it. So Nielsen stepped in and they called Julie White. Literally. On the phone – come do this part. That was how she found out about it. Everybody had one week before previews. Do you believe THAT? THEATRE!!!! But anyway doesn’t it still have that Taylor Mac kind of feel? Kind of a flow to it, right? Kind of unpredictable like you don’t know where you are going, right?”
Our paths separated here, but I think the gent summed it up nicely. The upshot is that if you have money to burn and are in the mood for mildly entertaining without a scoche of sense – you need look no further.
GARY – A Sequel to Titus Andronicus by Talor Mac; Directed by George C. Wolfe
WITH – Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, Julie White,Collin Baja, Tom Berklund, Tislarm Bouie and Matty Oaks
Booth Theatre, West 45th Street. TELECHARGE: 212-239-6200