Volume 79, Number 23 | November 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Theater

THE LILY’S REVENGE
Written by Taylor Mac, directed by Mac and others
Through November 22
At HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue (between Spring and Broome)
Call 212-352-3101

Photo by Ves Pitts
Lily is one fey flower you don’t want to mix it up with

Flower, on hero’s journey, seeks revenge

Mixed-stagecraft extravaganza boasts cast of 45 — plus you!

By Jerry Tallmer

Taylor Mac, who wrote it and now oversees it, doesn’t know how many roles there are, all told, in “The Lily’s Revenge” — his mixed-stagecraft extravaganza at HERE, in SoHo.

With a laugh he says: “Maybe 45?” Performed, he specifies, by 36 “living actors” plus others on video. But then, the audience is also part of the show, so the total performers should be 45-plus-??? on any given night.

Just a sampling from the three-page Cast of Characters:

Mary Prime Deity
Mary Subprime Deity
Time (also plays Wind and Stepmother)
An Audience Member (any age or gender)
The Great Longing (a talking curtain)
Bride Puppet
Bride Deity
Baby’s Breath
Daisy #1
Daisy #2
Tulip
Poppy
Forget-Me-Not (the audience)

…and, of course, Lily, a five-petaled flower.

And yes, the application of the name “Mary” is just what you think — in Taylor Mac’s words, “a term of opprobrium for gay men.”

He sees “The Lily’s Revenge” as “a hero’s journey” toward full manhood, whatever one’s particular orientation.

No doubt, dear reader, you can figure out who plays Lily.

So, Mr. Mac, who or what is Lily taking revenge on?

“The antagonist.” Playwright-director-actor lets it go at that, not wanting to give away the ending. Which comes five and a half hours after the start.

“It kind of goes by very quickly.,” he says. “We’ve cut some repetitions. The environment is always changing. By the time you take it all in, it’s gone. Which is what I wanted.

“We’re engaging with the audience every minute, and get a lot of people in their 70s. I hear over and over again: ‘We weren’t planning to stay, but…’ ”

There are five acts, six directors — Paul Zimet, Rachel Chavkin, Fay Driscoll, Aaron Rhyne, Kristin Marting, David Drake (with Mac himself available “to give it a certain common vision”) — and a whole congerie of theatrical modes (Noh play, verse play, puppet play, dance, audience participation) within a sort of overall Jungian mythic spookiness.

“I like Jung,” says Taylor Mac. “And it is a Jungian play.

“It’s really only about three and a half hours,” he says of the play’s running time. “The rest is intermissions.”

But the show goes on during intermissions, too, all through the HERE premises, upstairs and down, just as Judith Malina had the cast of Jack Gelber’s “The Connection” do at the Living Theater exactly 50 years ago.

Here at HERE, even in the bathrooms you can listen, during intermissions, to an admirably straightforward series of autobiographical monologues telling how the “Lily” author got to be that author.

It begins:

“Eight years old and I attend my first wedding. Princess Diana rides in a bullet-proof glass pumpkin across the TV screens of the world. My family wears our pajamas to the wedding and everyone agrees it is a perfect day.”

A little farther on:

“I become aware of AIDS on the same day puberty enters my life. AIDS awareness happens in the form of the Pope preaching abstinence to fight AIDS. Puberty comes in a dream that consists of two boys humping each other while Maggie Smith, in Greek toga, astride a Pegasus, reads their wedding vows. After this dream I am afraid to masturbate because I think, since I am gay, I will give myself AIDS.”,

Taylor Mac (the first two of his three real names) was born August 24, 1973, in Laguna Beach, California, but grew up in Stockton, California — “kind of a poor suburbia” — near the capitol at Sacramento

“My father worked for the National Forest. He died when I was 4. My mother became an art teacher. Yeah, that stuff is all basically true,” he says of those intermission monologues. “To show why I created this piece.”

Here, just for flavor, is a wedding-cake slice of “The Lily’s Revenge”:

BRIDE LOVE: There are too many different kinds of tomato soup.

GROOM LOVE: There are no options. (He slaps her to take her out of her craze.) It’s just you and me. (Slap) Look at me. (Slap) Just you and me. Forever.

BRIDE LOVE (horrified): Ahhhhhhhh.

SUBPRIME LOVE: What do we do?

BRIDE LOVE: Burn the apartment down.

FLOWER GIRLS LOVE [the Flower Girls are ancient crones a la the witches of “Macbeth”]: Burn mother fucker burn!

BRIDE LOVE: I’ve got the lighter fluid.

GROOM LOVE: What if you get caught?

BRIDE LOVE: You do it.

GROOM LOVE: Ladies first.

BRIDE LOVE: Why ladies first?

GROOM LOVE: Etiquette.

BRIDE LOVE: Blame.

GROOM LOVE: Chivalry.

BRIDE LOVE: Cowardice.

Jungian? It’s positively Beckettian.

Taylor Mac, who has a list of credits and awards as long as your arm — not least, an Edward Albee Foundation Residency — lives “with my lover” in the Gramercy Park area. He has been affiliated with HERE for 14 years now. His day jobs have included that of “cater waiter” at other people’s functions and parties.

He chose to make the hero of this work a Lily in part because, like “pansy,” the word is a derogation for homosexuality — “but the real reason I chose ‘Lily,’ ” he says, “comes from Greek mythology. Juno is the goddess of marriage, and wherever a drop of her breast milk hits the ground, there a lily grows.”

A closing retrospective from his monologues:

“In 2004 George W. Bush is elected President once more, primarily because people don’t want gays to marry. I attend my first lesbian wedding in my home state of California. The wedding is typical: grandma dances disco…The femme wears a dress and Dawn, the butch, a tuxedo…

“This is also the year Ronald Reagan dies and, inspired by Princess Diana’s funeral a few years before. Thousands of people descend on Washington to throw flowers [for those dead of AIDS] on the White House lawn. Fear of weakness is often confused with bravery.”

Have no fear, Taylor Mac is at HERE.

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