The latest ‘Game of Thrones’ parody features inspired set pieces padded out with stale jabs at the fantasy franchise.
Your mother may not be fluent in Dothraki, but she’s probably somewhat familiar with Game of Thrones, author George R.R. Martin’s hyper-violent and sexually explicit series of fantasy novels, which has been turned into a hit HBO series. With such cultural ubiquity, the appearance of theatrical parodies was only a matter of when, not if.
Graeme of Thrones is the latest Westeros-lampooing production to hit the stage in Chicago, opening shortly after the Apollo Theater’s Thrones! The Musical Parody. Originating in London’s West End, Graeme’s premise revolves around a man named Graeme (Ali Brice) who is pitching a low-budget stage adaptation of his favorite TV show to a group of investors. Graeme’s play-within-a-play ropes in his slow-witted but earnest best friend Paul (Michael Condron, who played Bowen Marsh of the Night’s Watch on the Game of Thrones series) and a woman he fancies named Bryony (Libby Northedge).
You’ll need to have a solid grasp on the characters and narratives portrayed in the first four seasons of the Game of Thrones TV series to keep up with Graeme’s abridged and self-referential retelling. After an interpretive dance piece that mirrors the show’s opening credits, the trio launches into a disjointed pastiche of scenes, assuming the roles of Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens with the help of gaffers tape, facial hair and awful wigs.
Much of the play’s humor assumes the on-the-nose tone of a Mad magazine parody, matching characters to their archetypes and making knowing references with the benefit of narrative hindsight—you’ve heard most of these jokes before. The constant “behind the scenes” bickering among the production’s actors, each of whom is trying to take the play in a different artistic direction, also falls flat.
Instead, it’s the creative set pieces and low-budget ingenuity that redeem Graeme, from a gratuitous “high concept” scene that simulates a character’s menstrual cycle with a leaf blower and confetti to the show’s sidestepping of actual nudity through the use of beige bodysuits. While Graeme’s mediocre tribute to his preferred fantasy franchise frequently feels a bit too authentic, absurd moments like a demon-summoning rave save it from being a fiasco on the scale of (spoiler alert) Stannis Baratheon’s defeat in the Battle of the Blackwater.
Broadway Playhouse. By Andrew Doyle, Toby Park and Dan Evans. Directed by Sam Bailey. With Ali Brice, Libby Northedge and Michael Condron. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.