‘The Lily’s Revenge’ a wild, wacky, four-hour riff on love 

About Taylor Mac’s much-hyped, 2009 Obie Award winner, the 4½-hour “The Lily’s Revenge,” a multidisciplinary “flowergory” at the Magic Theatre: Despite initial dire warnings by a very philosophical and pedantic Time, who’s trapped in a plastic hourglass (“Leave this place now!” she shrieks at the audience), time whizzes by. You’re likely to laugh from beginning to end — I did.

There’s even wacky entertainment during the three intermissions (only one example: the Gluteus Ballet — three stark naked butts on a tiny stage, wiggling with dancerly precision to “Bolero”).

The play (book, lyrics and concept by Mac, who’s wonderful as the eponymous flower; music by Rachelle Garniez) follows the erratic hero’s journey of a lily (the charismatic Mac) determined to unleash his inner man so he can marry a human girl who’s dressed like a pillow (imaginative costumes by Lindsay W. Davis).

Mac’s theme references gay marriage, but this is a joyous, wicked, rambunctious and deeply felt investigation into nothing less than the entire, commodified concept of love.

How do we reconcile our sentimental and nostalgic dreams and fantasies about romance? How can we grasp a more inclusive and spiritually evolved definition of that mysterious thing that makes the world go round?

“The Lily’s Revenge” comprises five acts, in which Lily painfully uproots himself, loses his petals and progressively becomes more humanized as he travels, carried on the lesbian Wind (embodied by an uproarious Jeri Lynn Cohen, who’s also Time and ... oh, never mind).

Lily, you see, has been incited by his flower comrades to liberate Dirt, who’s trapped in Ecuador on a soulless commercial farm.

Each act has its own director (Meredith McDonough, Marissa Wolf, Erika Chong Shuch, Erin Gilley and Jessica Holt, respectively, plus Jessica Heidt directing some ancient Japanese theatrical forms) and its own genre: “princess musical,” Shakespearean verse and haiku, dream ballet, silent film and “pastiche.”

The action spreads out all over the Magic’s small house, and the performers solicit just the right amount of participation from the wedding guests (us). Four of the acts involve reconfigurations of the set and seating areas.

The songs, mostly musical-theater genre, are genuinely charming. The physical action is pushed to the limits of X-rated antics and faux violence and the performances, by 30-plus local singers, dancers, musicians and actors — all in service of the unwieldy and grotesque tale of Lily and his longed-for bride — are uniformly excellent.

Among the surfeit of talent on display, shoutouts go to El Beh, Julia Brothers, Mollena Williams, Rowena Richie and Casi Maggio as a pair of bridezillas and, well, every other artist associated with this wildly entertaining meditation on the deepest of human desires.

Theater Review

The Lily’s Revenge

Presented by Magic Theatre

Where: Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco

7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; closes May 22

Tickets: $30 to $75

Contact: (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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