Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance
Dr. Professor Neal Portenza @ Tuxedo Cat – Rivers Studio
9:45pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015
A pleasing crowd had turned up for this, the opening night of Apologies in Advance; as we enter the Rivers Studio, Gary Portenza (yet another of Josh Ladgrove’s family of Portenza characters) is onstage with a guitar. “Do you like Pink Floyd?” he asked, his tight thin-lipped smile seething resentment. “You don’t now.”
With the door closed, Gary put the guitar away and announced that his twin brother, Neal, was dead. Those words were accompanied with the closest thing to “joy” that Gary expressed all night; he revels in being a darker, more malicious character. We were to be present for Neal’s funeral; Gary was going to be conducting it.
So we’re treated to a collection of Neal’s life highlights, including readings from some of his failed scripts. There’s snarky asides from Gary to his tech, Nathan. There’s even snarkier glares and taunts from Gary to the crowd, with the ever-present threat that he may engage the audience in a more significant manner. And there’s plenty of complaints about the blood left on the stage floor by Zoe Coombs Marr (leading to an impromptu mopping).
And, just when you think you’re safe, Ladgrove rolls his eyes back in his head to become a genuinely unsettling Psychopathic Gary, all bile and venom.
Oh, and I think that there was an inexplicable human-sized cockroach that wandered through the room. My memory may be failing me, though.
Being opening night, it was a rough-as-guts performance: readings fluffed, lighting cues missed (leading to more death glares from Gary to Nathan). But Gary Portenza leaves you in no doubt of the intent of the show. Where his brother Neal may lure the unsuspecting punter in and then surprise – and perhaps even alarm – them with the extent of their expected interaction, Gary is clearly there to unsettle and scare: I was never really sure where he was going. And it’s genuinely nerve-wracking fun.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 10, 2015