Woo, May Can makeout! Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, GARY is a play that tries to make a meaningful statement about life and sex, but what it actually says is hard to determine.
Featuring Tony Adams, Cory Thibert, and Chelsea Young, GARY follows three twentysomethings – Sean (Thibert), his girlfriend Mel (Young), and his friend Greg (Adams) – as they ostensibly pack up the belongings of Mel’s late uncle Gary but actually drink and talk about their lives and frustrations. All three feel like they’re being held back, and they end up releasing their frustrations in a rather primal way – through having a threesome.
The plot itself is fairly thin, but they things that Sean, Mel, and Greg talk about are pretty applicable to what young people are concerned with now and always: sexual freedom, being able to trust your partner, chafing at the rules society has set for you… The conversation wanders and threads are constantly interrupted, dropped, and picked up again. Stylistically it’s reminiscent of avant-garde British plays from the 1950s and ‘60s, but quality-wise it’s not quite Pinter.
There are definitely strong moments: one of the best comes right after the decision to go ahead with the threesome, only for all three to start arguing over what ground rules they should set or if they should even have ground rules, and passion is again stifled by order. If this is the main theme – that we all want to fulfill our passions, but our need for organization and stability usually gets in the way – then that is a commendable and very strong theme. I just wish it could have been a little more stressed, because the sexual content becomes the bigger focus in the second half of the play, and not necessarily in a thoughtful way. The choice to portray the threesome at all, let alone in a succession of tableaux, doesn’t really serve any purpose as far as I can tell other than to titillate (see first sentence of review for how effective it is at that). A little gratuitous content is fine (this is Fringe, after all), and one of the more gratuitous moments actually has a nice touch of social change to it: Greg’s main issue is his terrible ex-girlfriend’s aversion to doing “butt stuff” to him, even though he actually really enjoys it, and mocking him for it to boot. It’s this part more than anything else that makes this play something current (butt stuff isn’t just for gays!) but again this is a bit drowned out by the emphasis on portraying sensuality.
The title is also a bit confusing – Gary never appears in the play but we do hear an awful lot about him, mostly that he was apparently all ego with no id, which led to his untimely death by participating in a marathon without having done any training. Actually, this does form a nice parallel with the scene actually before us – it’s implied that after the threesome, in which our main characters succumb to their inner desires without considering the consequences, they later regret it – but the script as a whole is still too unfocussed for this to be any clearer.
GARY is a subtle show (possibly too subtle), with a valid warning to not just young people but to everyone that it’s healthy to indulge in one’s desires but there are consequences to accept. For my own purposes, I’ve decided to classify this one as a cautionary tale. See it and let me know what you think.
A Hymns in Hearse production
Written and Performed by Tony Adams, Cory Thibert, Chelsea Young