This afternoon, I saw Taylor Mac's new play Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus. If you haven't seen it yet, oh yes, there will be camp.
Not that there was ever any doubt. Mac's plays are filled with high camp, and with a cast including Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, and Julie White, we know we're in for some shockingly comedic performances.
Titus Andronicus is the bloodiest tragedy William Shakespeare ever wrote, and taking a cue from Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Mac takes a minor victim in Shakespeare's slaughter and builds an entirely new play around him.
That character is the clown, a term that in Shakespeare's day generally referred to a foolish rustic person, not necessarily to a white-faced entertainer. In Titus Andronicus the clown comes in with a basket of pigeons, and Titus asks him if there are any tidings from the god Jupiter. After a few jokes, Titus convinces the clown to carry a message to the emperor, and wraps a knife in the letter.
Of course, delivering a letter with a knife in it isn't the most polite thing to do, and the emperor orders the clown hanged. In Mac's version, however, the clown (whose name we learn is Gary) escapes and gets a job as a maid, cleaning up the mess after the latest blood-filled coup. Santo Loquasto's set design features mounds of bodies and body parts, which Gary and his fellow maid are tasked with tidying up a bit.
Body humor abounds, but the play isn't just after laughs. By implication, Mac asks us to consider our responses to all mass slaughters and political disasters, including increasingly frequent school shootings and a failure of allegedly democratic systems to prevent the rise of tyrants.
Director George C. Wolfe keeps the tastelessness classy, and Danny Elfman provides a wickedly dark score. If you're interested in learning more, check out the show's website.