The Lily's Revenge
Taylor Mac's ambitious and entertaining five-hour musical extravaganza defies easy categorization.
The first act, directed by Paul Zimet, is set up proscenium-style, with Mac "planted" in the audience as Lily -- complete with flower pot. As the onstage action gets going, Lily comments from his seat until eventually being brought into the play itself, where he pulls focus away from the character who thinks he's running the show -- The Great Longing (James Tigger! Ferguson), who is also known as the god of nostalgia, and incarnated as a stage curtain. Lily also gives hope to the personification of Time (Miss Bianca Leigh) who urges Lily to bring "an end to institutionalized nostalgic narrative." While such concepts may seem somewhat abstract, they're entertainingly presented within the production.
The next act, directed by Rachel Chavkin, is staged in the round, and also written mostly in verse. Lily enters the garden and meets Master Sunflower (Daphne Gaines) and a host of other flowers who are ready to revolt against the humans who are planning a garden wedding where they will be trampled underfoot. Act 3 (directed by Faye Driscoll), Act 4 (directed by Aaron Rhyne), and Act 5 (directed by David Drake) each reconfigure the stage environment while also sampling from Noh, burlesque, puppet theater, film, Butoh, and other genres.
Mac is an enormously entertaining performer, mixing campiness and sincerity as Lily continues on his journey. He has a fabulous singing voice, with his Act 2 solo (the music is composed by Rachelle Garniez, with lyrics by Mac) being one of the show's many highlights. Ferguson is also quite delightful, and his Act 3 striptease manages to be simultaneously hilarious and titillating. The remaining performers are of varying ability, with memorable turns from Leigh, Gaines, and the burlesque star World Famous *BOB* who serves as a charming and gracious hostess for the entire evening.
The costumes, designed by Machine Dazzle, are stunningly inventive, particularly for the various flower characters. Equally impressive is Derrick Little's make-up design. Set designer Nick Vaughan succeeds in making each new stage configuration suit the action of the play, even if some of the changeovers result in lengthy intermissions. However, the show doesn't really stop between acts, as there are a range of activities and interactive exhibits to explore during the breaks.
Admittedly, there are moments -- and sometimes entire stretches -- of the long evening that become tiresome, such as the Act 3 dream ballet. But, overall, the ambitious project confirms Mac's reputation as an innovative theater artist.