Over Memorial Day weekend I set out to break my (personal) record of most shows in a weekend. Three matinees, two evening performances. Let's dive in.
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Friday night was Gary, a bizarre show. In fact, for most of it I found myself thinking back to Dracula Dead and Loving It. This show managed to combine childish slapstick with some impressive social commentary.
Gary is a sequel to one of Shakespeare's bloodiest and least popular plays, Titus Andronicus. The show opens with a pile of dead bodies and our two leads, Gary and Janice cleaning up the mess from the previous act.
These two proceed through a series of fart jokes, penis jokes, and oh look his head came off. Most of this play felt like a Mel Brooks knockoff. Honestly, I was bored for the first hour.
That said, the show had some really thoughtful moments. Our third character, Carol, is middle class, and obsessed with the idea of saving a single baby from death, with no clear parents or future. I took this as effective commentary on the pro-life movement.
Nathan Lane (Gary) has an excellent moment describing how "cleaning up the mess" is just letting the bad people think they've gotten away with it. It felt like the show flipped a switch and decided to comment on the state of the world.
Overall this show was strange, sometimes boring, but so campy I kind of enjoyed it. I seriously wonder if Nathan Lane is just using his status to troll the rest of us.
What The Constitution Means to Me
Next up was What the Constitution Means to Me. I saw this Saturday afternoon and this was by far the best show I saw all weekend. As a teenager, Heidi Schreck participated in competitions where they would analyze and debate the meaning behind certain passages in the constitution.
This show was so well done, and so unbelievably relevant. She talked in depth about what amendments 9 and 14 mean to her and how they brought us Roe V Wade. The show goes on to talk about the intent of so many parts of our founding document, and how much of it is open to interpretation.
I loved the structure of this show. At first, Heidi reproduces the exact structure of her former high school debates. As the show goes on she takes increasingly more asides until she eventually commits to speaking as her modern self.
The biggest thing I learned from this show was about positive and negative rights. Positive rights are things the government has to provide, healthcare, public safety, or welfare. Negative rights focus on what the government can't do, restrict speech, invade your house, or send you to jail without due process.
Our constitution is largely a negative rights document. This was fascinating to learn about, and the end when she discusses what rewriting the constitution might look like, leaves the audience unsure of how the country should move forward.
Hillary and Clinton
Saturday evening, I went for a second political production, Hillary and Clinton. Honestly, this show was exceptionally mediocre. It focuses on the Clintons' marriage during the 2008 primary.
This is frankly, not a very interesting take on the Clintons. With everything that would come after that election, I don't think a behind the scenes look there is very interesting. The show makes a lot of conjecture about their marriage, and honestly felt wrong.
John Lithgow's Bill Clinton was a shell of a man and not at all the Bill Clinton we see publicly. Maybe this is a valid take on the real man in his marriage, but it didn't translate well.
The one standout of this show was Laurie Metcalf. She humanized Hilary in a way the media doesn't often do. The show talks about how Bill's affairs affected Hilary personally and how this causes her to be guarded. I'm not sure how much of this is based on fact, but it made for good character development.
There was also some over the top references to the universe and the idea of infinite planets like ours. Frankly, I think that was just an excuse to dive heavily into the personal lives of two very public figures.
Sunday afternoon I went for Burn This. This show was excellent. This play is about a women who loses her best friend and how his other-side-of-the-tracks brother comes into her life.
I'd call this show a character piece more than anything else. Not a ton happens, but the characters are constantly being developed. It takes places over a series of months with a handful of scenes.
Keri Russell gives an incredible performance as Anna and displays a range including grief, anger, and love. Her character is by far the easiest to connect with.
Adam Driver was very funny as Pale. This is the brother who enters Anna's life, and he sells his character as a very damaged man who is very smart, but uneducated.
Brandon Uranowitz is always fun to see live and was really the source of comic relief in this show. He plays the gay roommate, does a great job at relieving tension in otherwise stressful scenes.
I don't know that I would send most people to this show, this was very much an intense study of characters, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Finally, Sunday night, I saw the Prom. This show is silly, and a lot of fun. IT was also the only musical I saw this weekend.
The premise involves a bunch of washed up Broadway stars attempting to gain recognition for protesting a homophobic prom in Indiana.
It was weird how much I loved some parts of this show and hated others. The exposition around the Broadway stars was pretty dull. However as soon as the kids in Indiana took the stage, I was filled with emotion. "Note to self, don't be gay in Indiana."
I saw Gabi Campo as an understudy for Emma, the teenager who can't bring her girlfriend to prom. She played this role with so much emotion and I loved her character for it. More often than not, when Emma was onstage, I had an excuse to cry.
This was very much a standard, fun, musical. I'm not totally sure why it was nominated for so many Tonys, but I think it has wide mainstream appeal regardless.
My biggest takeaway from this weekend was this is a very mixed season. Constitution and Burn This were both incredible, but everything else was average, boring, or downright strange. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Tonys shake out in a few weeks, and which nominations actually come through.