Thursday, April 28, 2011

"The Lily's Revenge": ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ??

Reviewers sit around their impeccably furnished cybercaves and bemoan the current state of the theater. "Mostly," they type, "it's the same damned thing over and over." Then they go see Taylor Mac's "The Lily's Revenge."

Well, Toto, it ain't Kansas anymore, though Lindsay Davis is from Kansas City. Davis designed the showstopping and eyepopping costumes which, like every other animate and inanimate object in this production, are so over the top they begin to look normal. Davis's five flowers -- make that, revolutionaries (poppy, pansy, rose, lilac and tulip) who are working for the restoration of the empire of dirt (the second child of Time), and who need to enlist gender and species-bending Lily (played by the spectacular Mr. Mac) into their cause -- oh, forget it. The flowers are brilliant. And you can't explain this story.

(Aside: Poppy is played by Carlos Aguirre, who was so good in Oedipus El Rey.)

Here's the bottom line: Lily wants to marry a human woman, so he has to turn into a man, kind of, in a manner of speaking, sort of, a little bit, but not too much.

FIVE acts later, Lily's quest is over, he has lost all his petals and he's wearing a tuxedo. As the lights go out and the curtain comes down, he asks the audience a simple question. You are to purse your lips if you say yes (you liked the show) and do nothing if you didn't. This reviewer astonished himself by not only pursing his lips but standing up to cheer, and this is after THREE intermissions and nearly FIVE hours, seat and theater changes and dinner in a box.

You can't help but compare Taylor Mac, the performer, with Freddie Mercury -- he's got that huge pop-Broadway voice.

(He really looks like this:)

The other terrific singer is the Bride Deity (Casi Maggio, who in addition to having pipes is also very funny). But there's not enough music in the show for it to be called a musical -- there are only two real songs (Maggio's "Love Me? Love Me Not?" and "Teetering on the Edge of Too Little, Too Late"). Mac sings a lot. But what does he sing? Sorry, can't remember.

OK, haters, on your marks, get set: "The Lily's Revenge" is like the gay "Hair." (The last time we invoked 'Hair,' we got more hate mail than Mohammar Qadaffi.) Both shows are about stretching boundaries and sexual freedom, in life and on stage. But there was a war going on in 1968. In 2011 it's all about fun and the bottom line is still sex -- you can pull up anybody's skirt or pants and pretend to lick his or her private petals.

The Great Longing (Mollena Williams) gets naked. There is a Pope named Baruch Porras-Hernandez and he is involved in some kind of hijinks but you can't really follow it with so much else going on.

SO much going on. Five acts and six directors. A cast of forty. Vaudeville acts during intermissions that could take place only in San Francisco without engendering police sirens. (Massages with large dildos? Yup.) That this show could feel as complete as it does is a tribute to Loretta Greco, Artistic Director of the Magic, and to the vision of Taylor Mac.

But it's really long, not just a little self indulgent, and doesn't add much to the discussion on sexism or homophobia or gay marriage or even sexual identity. "Angels in America" it ain't. But perhaps this misses the point. Lily's strongest statements seem to be about corporate America's packaging of all things beautiful -- the emasculated white rose in the plastic wrapper, for example, is a lasting metaphor. The animated film in Act Four illustrates this brilliantly.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ??
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Lily's Revenge" the first-ever Four Star Two Question Mark rating. The show is too good for just Three Stars, but you probably really have to love going to the theater to want to endure all the standing around during all those intermissions.

Sorry, but it's annoying. You want to grow roots in a show -- become attached to your seat, for example. Having to leave the theater and take all your belongings is kind of cute the first time, and the novelty acts in the lobby are fun, plus you can buy dinner. When you come back in and everything has changed you feel like the cheshire cat. You smile. But after Act Two there is no dinner and if you don't happen to stand in the right place in the lobby you will get stuck behind a post in the brand new theater you sit in for Act Three. And the third intermission is just a drag. You can just drink so much wine in a plastic cup.

Taylor Mac is something else, though. He earns Star One as a writer and Star Two as an actor. He is also responsible for one Question Mark, which is for the endless dream ballet (Act Three). It was like a bad wedding -- complete with an emcee trying to cajole you into getting up and dance -- to a drummer and cellist. "Get the f___ up!" he screams. Question Mark Number Two.

Lindsay Davis's costumes earn Star Three for themselves and Loretta Greco brings home Star Four with a smile of gratitude from the committee. Herding six directors into one production had to feel like having her own petals pulled off one by one, but she did it. Mounting this ultra-ambitious project is a triumph for Loretta Greco and for the Magic.


"The Lily's Revenge"
The Magic Theatre
Fort Mason Center, Building D
Through May 22

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