OTP's 'GARY, A SEQUEL TO TITUS ANDRONICUS' IS BLOODY BRILLIANT
All three actors deliver show stopping comic performances. Man's fall to foolery and becoming God has never been such a mad 90 minutes of flatulence joy. Taylor Mac’s impressive first play wow’d Broadway.
Review by Vince Mediaa
It's time to celebrate mounds of carnage, toxic dead bodies and the encore of Shakespeare’s bloodiest battle. The Oakland Theatre Project set in the back black box at the Flax Arts Studio is covered in corpses; most of the dead also include some bouncing dildo’s. Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus is now on stage at OTP through October 1st and it is bloody brilliant. Directed by Emillie Whelan and featuring three of the Bay’s best actors; Jomar Tagatac as “Gary”, Matt Stanley as Janice and Regina Morones as Carol. This sublime masterpiece can only work with an excellent immersive cabaret set designed by the clever Carlos Aceves.
You don't need to know much about Shakespeare's bloodiest tragedy - Director Whelan says “no need to have seen Titus Andronicus to enjoy the right side of this wonderful world. You won’t remember Gary and Janice's story; they were hardly there. Now in this sequel, they endure through the blood bath and hold the lead roles in this aftermath.” This follow-up, which picks up where the Bard left off in 1594 and feels more alive to the present than most anything currently on stage. The mounds of carnage on stage — intestines spilling over, limbs, severed heads is enough to tell us shit has hit the fan.
An unflagging maid, played by the marvelous Matt Standley, preps cadavers for the grave. The maid Janice is effective at preparing the piles of dead bodies including forcing the dead gas from the bodies. ”Ya think this is me first massacre?” she yells. She shows Gary how to rid the dead of any remaining flatulence, as well as blood and feces. Lovely fart sounds are a craft of the soundtrack of this farce. Sound designer Ray Archie sprays the OTP stage with gassy fart queues minus any smell. The whoopie cushion sound design you hear every emission in all its amplified glory. If we truly entered this morgue the smell of death would require us to exit.
The play opens in rhymed verse by Carol, the midwife covered in blood played by the polished Regina Morones, a woman higher in social station than Gary or Janice, though still serving the more fortunate. The award honored Jomar Tagatac is Gary, a clown who has been ordered to quit clowning around and help clean up the dead. The feces and flatulence humor is a key subtext early on, with Tagatac and Standley, both speaking in cockney accents, pressing dummies and other body parts to produce a symphony of fart noises. Janice also shows the former clown how to siphon out the corpses’ fluids, a task with a risk if the wrong tube is sucked. Gary’s uneasiness fades and he begins to have fun with his fully erect subjects, even developing a crush on one of them.
Mac's play has a goal for the clown, to save the world, by being promoted to the role of a fool, a voice of wit and wisdom. He speaks about the “beauty of a coup” that would deliver them from chaos and despair and social injustice, rather than requiring them to clean up, in every sense, after the privileged. “All you’ve done is make it seem pleasant for the people making the mess,” Gary tells Janice, “I understand. Ya had some near deaths. It changed your lives. And now ya think ya can change other people’s as well. But it don’t work that way” says Janice.
After all the blood has spilled the real fooling begins. Gary is the kind of immersive art, wild, marx brothers sharp as a dagger dripping with blood. Mac’s use of verse at times, is effective Gary and Janice are the every man questioning the systems that led to this mess of death and cocks. Mac's experience in weaving such social traditions into a madcap comedy with fart gags and dick jokes is a wonder to witness. Marina Polakoff’s costume design, Janice appears in a black roomie skirt, and Gary in bright orange and brown earth tones and a sweet sweater that he gives to Janice. Later Janice appears in a gold gown fit for a true Queen.
Gary and Janice’s cynicism complement each other in the wild world of Taylor Mac. Janice brings her authority and frustration, and settles into a rhyme tribute to Titus’s dead daughter Lavinia, a victim of the slaughter and a symbol of the unfair burden on one gender. “I would like to see a line of living women kicking all in one direction, symbolizing a revolt, and taking over the world.” Janice keeps the bodies of women and children covered, out of respect and because she can’t bear to look at them.
Tagatac becomes the tomfoolery and the dark side of Shakespeare's best fools, equally perfect at sight gags and bringing audience members in on the fun. A smart audience member sings a song with Gary all improvised. The slew of dead bodies is also spread out to audience members for a battle that ends the vaudeville dark comedy. Regina Morones completes the fun with a mad hatter tea party as a midwife who crawls from the stink of the heap having survived a slit to her throat. Props by Martha Powell include a bedazzled tea set, buckets of blood, draining tools that Janice mixes up as she tastes a flow of fecal matter. Aceves set design takes up the whole space in the black box, and includes a runway and a wall of dead bodies and cocks. The cast’s keen physical efforts are aided by fight director Raisa Donato, who created some expert shenanigans. Lighting Director Kevin Myrick mood red lighting extends to every corner of the black box and highlights the wall cocks.
Janice agonizes over the fate of another small character in the original Titus: a baby, the product of an affair between the Goth queen Tamora and Aaron, a Moor. Marked for murder in Shakespeare’s play, the toddler comes to bring hope in Mac’s, informing a benediction that cuts through the silliness and becomes pure as a ray of sunlight. A one year old toddler is added to the cast. Almost in tears the baby is wonderful and brings clear hope to this night of blood and lunacy. Director Whelan, three gifted performers blend in harmony to deliver a mad max tease to the end of the world. Man's fall to foolery and becoming God has never been such a mad 90 minutes of flatulence joy. This is a must see, the space only holds about 50 seats so get your tickets today.
The Oakland Theater Project Presents
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
by Taylor Mac
Directed by Emilie Whelan
Featuring: Regina Morones, Jomar Tagatac
and Matt Standley
Must Close October 1st 2023
Staged at Flax Art Studio
1501 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94612.
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: at https://oaklandtheaterproject.org/
Photos by Ben Krantz Studio
Meet the cast of "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus"
OTP Company Members Regina Morones (A Streetcar Named Desire, Mother Courage and Her Children) as Carol, Matt Standley (Exodus to Eden, DOWN HERE BELOW, Hamlet) as Janice, and Jomar Tagatac (Rashomon) as Gary