Edge Boston review:

Publication date: 
October 16, 2012
Author: 
Robert Nesti

Is it okay to say that I have the tiniest crush on Taylor Mac? It came about on Sunday afternoon when the New York based performance artist brought his crazy carnival of a show - called The Lily’s Revenge - to Oberon under the auspices of the American Repertory Theater. 

Was it love at first sight? Not really. When Mac appeared like a Hedda Lettuce-wanabee in green sequins as the show’s title character, I was, "my, my." With five pink pedals emanating from his head while standing in a flower pot, his lanky frame only brought the word "twee" to mind and I thought this is going to be a long afternoon. 

Not that I didn’t know it would be: a few minutes earlier, an actress adorned with a headdress of cut-out clocks (she was called Time) pleaded with the audience to - in her word - "flee" the theater because the play that was to follow was going to some five hours long. So long, she put it, "you may actually forget your name." I slumped back in my chair and succumbed to the fact that it was going to be a long day’s journey into night.

But then a drag chorus (five Flower Girl Dietys each with the name of Mary) began to sing clever musical comedy pastiche (the infectious tunes were by Rachelle Garniez and the cheeky lyrics were by Mac) and I began to succumb. Tom Derrah, poking out of a crimson curtain as, well, someone called The Great Longing, but also doubling as the curtain, attempted to bring order to the play; but it was getting away from him. 

It has something to do with a wedding of a Bride Diety, who first appears as a puppet out of "Avenue Q" than morphs into the garrulous Davina Cohen, an actress who would be right at home in "Bridesmaids." She is to marry Matthew Milo Sergi - a jockish, 30-something that confesses he thinks of pornography while making love to her; but her heart belongs to Lily, who is a little bit out of "Little Shop of Horrors" school of botany - part human, part plant. Can he become a man? As it is pointed out towards the end of the first act, we have four hours to find out.

What transpires next is Taylor Mac’s Drag Race as the landscape changes to a hothouse of exotic flowers, each courtesy of the fantastic designer Sarah Cubbage, where everyone speaks in verse and haikus; a loony wedding rehearsal (staged as a dream ballet) with a bulimic bride and sexually ambiguous groom; a short film that grounds the madness into reality; and, finally, a wedding where the stage explodes in more color and invention than in a dozen Gold Dust Orphans show. Mac is not only channeling the spirit of Charles Ludlam, but also Vincente Minnelli - this is an MGM musical by way of RuPaul.

Holding this crazy quilt of theatrical styles together is Mac, a phenomenally talented singer and actor that acts like all this madness is his every day existence. He seems as natural dressed as a lily in a flower pot as he cutting a handsome stance in a tux during the final scene; and he sings with a resonant baritone that would make him right at home in the chorus of "Wicked." Mac plays Lily with more winks and nods than Carol Burnett - he’s a born vaudevillian. With his face a variegated mix of fuchsia and white makeup, complementing the lily pedals emanating from his neck, his body corseted into a spangled, emerald green jumpsuit and his green cowboy boots elevated with four-inch heels, Mac’s like a drag Pee Wee Herman and Oberon is his Playhouse. It’s a great place to hang out for the show’s four-plus hours.

There is method to his madness: beneath all the cheek, is a sweet homage to the kind of theater Charles Ludlam excelled in during the 1970s. Ludlam may be best-known for this pocket-sized "The Mystery of Irma Vep," but he made his name with his full-scale drag takes on classical theater, from "Medea" to "Camille," and "The Lily’s Revenge" honors a style of drag theater that was as extravagant as it was slight. Mac also has something to say, about marriage, gay. straight, communal, even inter-species; and does so in the style of a 1970’s happening. It has dramatic form, to be sure: its first act parodies the notions of classical theater; its second offers a fashion show in verse; its third, something of a dream ballet turned nightmare; its fourth, a short, compelling mix of animation and Mac’s personal observations; and its fifth, a marriage ceremony right out of a hippie commune. But it also has an in-your-face, not give-a-shit attitude that’s disarming.

As staged by Sira Milikowsky, the show is performed in a demonstrative, tongue-in-cheek style that is, at first, off-putting, but evolves into something charming. The intermission interludes, which include visits to the impromptu disco in the dressing room and much to eat and drink, certainly add to the carnival atmosphere. But to fully enjoy the meandering and seemingly ephemeral narrative, it does take giving yourself to the moment, as silly as it may seem; but it is well worth the commitment. 


"Lily’s Revenge" is an epic journey; gorgeously designed, emphatically played and oddly disarming. What I came away with was that Taylor Mac is an extraordinarily talented and generous artist willing to share his vision with his cast and his audience. At its final curtain, the tiny Oberon stage bursts with a garishly made-up lunatic crew in garish colors, sequins, leather, spandex, feathers, petticoats, top hats, headdresses and bridal attire, all celebrating the much-maligned and over-used term, diversity. This was one wedding party I was thrilled to attend.Is it okay to say that I have the tiniest crush on Taylor Mac? It came about on Sunday afternoon when the New York based performance artist brought his crazy carnival of a show - called The Lily’s Revenge - to Oberon under the auspices of the American Repertory Theater. 

Was it love at first sight? Not really. When Mac appeared like a Hedda Lettuce-wanabee in green sequins as the show’s title character, I was, "my, my." With five pink pedals emanating from his head while standing in a flower pot, his lanky frame only brought the word "twee" to mind and I thought this is going to be a long afternoon. 

Not that I didn’t know it would be: a few minutes earlier, an actress adorned with a headdress of cut-out clocks (she was called Time) pleaded with the audience to - in her word - "flee" the theater because the play that was to follow was going to some five hours long. So long, she put it, "you may actually forget your name." I slumped back in my chair and succumbed to the fact that it was going to be a long day’s journey into night.

But then a drag chorus (five Flower Girl Dietys each with the name of Mary) began to sing clever musical comedy pastiche (the infectious tunes were by Rachelle Garniez and the cheeky lyrics were by Mac) and I began to succumb. Tom Derrah, poking out of a crimson curtain as, well, someone called The Great Longing, but also doubling as the curtain, attempted to bring order to the play; but it was getting away from him. 

It has something to do with a wedding of a Bride Diety, who first appears as a puppet out of "Avenue Q" than morphs into the garrulous Davina Cohen, an actress who would be right at home in "Bridesmaids." She is to marry Matthew Milo Sergi - a jockish, 30-something that confesses he thinks of pornography while making love to her; but her heart belongs to Lily, who is a little bit out of "Little Shop of Horrors" school of botany - part human, part plant. Can he become a man? As it is pointed out towards the end of the first act, we have four hours to find out.

What transpires next is Taylor Mac’s Drag Race as the landscape changes to a hothouse of exotic flowers, each courtesy of the fantastic designer Sarah Cubbage, where everyone speaks in verse and haikus; a loony wedding rehearsal (staged as a dream ballet) with a bulimic bride and sexually ambiguous groom; a short film that grounds the madness into reality; and, finally, a wedding where the stage explodes in more color and invention than in a dozen Gold Dust Orphans show. Mac is not only channeling the spirit of Charles Ludlam, but also Vincente Minnelli - this is an MGM musical by way of RuPaul.

Holding this crazy quilt of theatrical styles together is Mac, a phenomenally talented singer and actor that acts like all this madness is his every day existence. He seems as natural dressed as a lily in a flower pot as he cutting a handsome stance in a tux during the final scene; and he sings with a resonant baritone that would make him right at home in the chorus of "Wicked." Mac plays Lily with more winks and nods than Carol Burnett - he’s a born vaudevillian. With his face a variegated mix of fuchsia and white makeup, complementing the lily pedals emanating from his neck, his body corseted into a spangled, emerald green jumpsuit and his green cowboy boots elevated with four-inch heels, Mac’s like a drag Pee Wee Herman and Oberon is his Playhouse. It’s a great place to hang out for the show’s four-plus hours.

There is method to his madness: beneath all the cheek, is a sweet homage to the kind of theater Charles Ludlam excelled in during the 1970s. Ludlam may be best-known for this pocket-sized "The Mystery of Irma Vep," but he made his name with his full-scale drag takes on classical theater, from "Medea" to "Camille," and "The Lily’s Revenge" honors a style of drag theater that was as extravagant as it was slight. Mac also has something to say, about marriage, gay. straight, communal, even inter-species; and does so in the style of a 1970’s happening. It has dramatic form, to be sure: its first act parodies the notions of classical theater; its second offers a fashion show in verse; its third, something of a dream ballet turned nightmare; its fourth, a short, compelling mix of animation and Mac’s personal observations; and its fifth, a marriage ceremony right out of a hippie commune. But it also has an in-your-face, not give-a-shit attitude that’s disarming.

As staged by Sira Milikowsky, the show is performed in a demonstrative, tongue-in-cheek style that is, at first, off-putting, but evolves into something charming. The intermission interludes, which include visits to the impromptu disco in the dressing room and much to eat and drink, certainly add to the carnival atmosphere. But to fully enjoy the meandering and seemingly ephemeral narrative, it does take giving yourself to the moment, as silly as it may seem; but it is well worth the commitment. 


"Lily’s Revenge" is an epic journey; gorgeously designed, emphatically played and oddly disarming. What I came away with was that Taylor Mac is an extraordinarily talented and generous artist willing to share his vision with his cast and his audience. At its final curtain, the tiny Oberon stage bursts with a garishly made-up lunatic crew in garish colors, sequins, leather, spandex, feathers, petticoats, top hats, headdresses and bridal attire, all celebrating the much-maligned and over-used term, diversity. This was one wedding party I was thrilled to attend.

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