Review: Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (As Performed by David Carl)


Richard Burton, Ralph Fiennes, Mark Rylance, and even Ethan Hawke have all played the doomed, indecisive Danish prince. And now we have the pleasure and the privilege of seeing the estimable Gary Busey assume the role, in a one-man performance no less!

I may be planting my tongue firmly in my cheek but I need to illustrate the point that David Carl fully inhabits Gary Busey the second he hits the stage in Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (as performed by David Carl). At one point during the performance, Carl seamlessly improvised to an audience member, “you are an angel in a human suit.” You quickly forget that you are watching an actor playing Gary Busey.

Our current crop of reality shows might make it difficult to keep up with Gary Busey’s unique brand of crazy but David Carl gets you up to speed instantly. Busey often speaks in pseudo-spiritual non sequitur and Gary Hamletism. For the uninitiated, a Gary Hamletism is a reverse engineered acronym of a common word, such as HOPE: Heavenly Offerings Prevail Eternally. The show features several hilarious Buseyisms displayed in paintings projected on the back wall.

The set consists of two tables with paper cut out castle walls and paper cut out Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and Ophelia among others, each baring a picture of Busey’s head from various stages in his career. A side effect of this show is realizing “damn, Gary Busey’s been in a lot of movies.” One cut out was from Lethal Weapon, another from Point Break (or was it Under Siege?). There was even a cut out from Busey’s Academy Award–nominated turn in The Buddy Holly Story (Carl even belts out a version of “Peggy Sue”).

He takes us through the play, act by act, and scene by scene, acting the parts himself or providing the voices of his paper players on the stage. He summarizes when he deems it necessary and always provides the stage direction (I’m sure you’ve been wondering if Gary Busey saying “exeunt” ever gets old. Don’t worry. It doesn’t.) He further meets the challenge of performing multiple characters through the use of “multimedia” (that’s digital video to you and me), freeing him up to cut away to other characters and stage a unique and hilarious fight sequence.

Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet passed a pretty crucial test for the success of a comedy: I missed some funny lines because I couldn’t hear them over the laughter. But at the heart of all good comedy is a nugget of truth. When Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus (each played by a finger puppet) to swear by his sword, Busey interpolates, “come on, man, I’m crazy and no one takes me seriously.” It was a funny line of dialogue that could apply to either Hamlet or Gary Busey. That’s what makes the show so enjoyable. You aren’t watching an extended sketch of someone doing an impression. You are watching a prolific actor-cum-reality show train wreck act his heart out to bring you Hamlet in the only way he knows how. It skips around and digresses and flat out steals from several summer blockbusters but Gary Busey (as played by David Carl) knocks it out of the park.

Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (as performed by David Carl)
is playing at The Celebration Of Whimsy, a.k.a. The C.O.W. (21 Clinton Street between Houston and Stanton) in New York City as part of the Fringe Festival.

The show is approximately 80 minutes with no intermission.

Remaining show dates are as follows:
Thursday, 8/14, at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, 8/15, at 2:00 p.p.
Sunday, 8/17, at 2:15 p.m.
Saturday, 8/23, at 4:45 p.m.


About Author

Rob Penty is a front end web developer living in Brookly, NY. You can see him perform improv at the Magnet Theater or tell stories at Moth StorySLAMs. For more of his writing, check out

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