Insane in the Dane—Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet: As Performed by David Carl
by MR Anderson
The garish, screaming half-skull, half-Gary Busey face filling the room-size projector screen upstage does little to prepare you for the experience you’re about to have. With a fierce kick to the door, and his signature limping gait, he makes his way downstage in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. It is the man himself—or so you’d believe—as from start to finish, David Carl presents a spot-on impression of the seemingly unhinged actor that transcends tribute.
At first glance, Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet: As Performed by David Carl is the kind of project you’d expect to see in a three-minute YouTube clip filled with cheap jabs and taste-specific humor. Yet, for more than an hour, Carl acts as narrator, star, supporting, puppeteer (both stick AND finger!), musician, and Spirit Guide; showing a true fascination of the man he portrays. With a twitch in his eye and an aurally perfected snarl showcasing his mouthful of Busey teeth, Gary explains his one-man performance of “Hamlet” is his chance to show us that he’s “still got the chops.”
David Carl and director Michole Biancosino have smartly booby-trapped the stage with obstacles for Gary. As the character stumbles through the entirety of an already dense play, he is bombarded with shoddy paper-styrofoam puppets he must repeatedly stab onto their support legs, a large microphone he must pull from and return to his pocket every few seconds, and even a fully-choreographed “multimedia” fight between himself and his own video projection. Much of the night’s side-splitting hilarity comes from seemingly unexpected malfunctions and the ways by which Gary Busey would realistically react to them.
If you’re not a die-hard Busey fan, the play starts to run on and become a bit expected towards the middle, but to Carl’s credit, that is exactly what would happen if it were the man himself doing this performance. Fortunately, Gary starts to skip the scenes he finds unimportant, which is just hysterical.
Polonius’ stabbing scene ends abruptly with Gary breaking down saying “I’m sorry, I can’t do this scene tonight,” offering a welcomed moment of heart from a troubled mind. I would have loved to see more of this develop, but the play is long enough as it is, and tacking on additional scenes would tip the scales.
Gary ends the night with a talk-back (because Benedict Cumberbatch told him it’s not a Shakespeare play without one), in which he answers a question from nearly every person in the audience, and divines sage advice for each of them based on their first names. By the conclusion of all of this, you find yourself feeling an odd appreciation and gratitude for Gary Busey, despite the fact that it’s not really him. With Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet: As Performed by David Carl, you will get exactly what you expect, and oh so much more.
Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet: As Performed by David Carl is currently scheduled for four more performances: June 25, June 30, July 9, July 30 at the PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues). www.buseyhamlet.com