I'll be frank. I'm always up for theater, but I was exhausted from a long workday, and wasn't sure I wanted to make the drive into Dallas to see what I was envisioning as a very "experimental" performance at the Undermain Theatre. The artist was Taylor Mac, a rising performer (recently written up in The New Yorker) whose trademarks are a gorgeously sequined face, a ragamuffin drag wardrobe, and a ukulele.
I'm so glad I kicked my stupid, lazy self in the butt and did it. Because after the two-hour "subversive jukebox musical," I felt like I had just been swept up in a thrilling revolution.
As the title indicates, The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac is a hodge-podge of Taylor's work, and is threaded through with songs and comedy, politics and pathos, tenderness and rage. (Similarly, his singing voice can be beautifully sweet or forcefully angry.)
Yep, for a musical theater piece, this ain't no Mamma Mia!. But while it will give your brain and your funny bone a fabulous workout, it's hardly as "experimental" as some of the fringe theater pieces Mac hilariously describes in his lengthy but entertaining exposition.
One of his recurring targets is our culture of fear. He notes that we're constantly preparing for any surprise that might pierce through our giant "Bubble of Preparation." Especially after 9/11, when "we were throwing out the French wine, duct-taping all the windows."
He's bemused by the fact that many Americans still believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, but also puzzled by why we should care if he actually was a Muslim. Taylor says it'd be kind of glorious to see a Muslim president in America. "I want to see a Black, Muslim, lesbian candidate," he says. "With a lisp."
Taylor's songs and musings meander from gas masks and latex gloves to poignant and sometimes tragic tales about the dangers of homogeneity. Especially touching is But I Loved Him, an ode to past and current loves -- at turns funny and vengeful, tender and forgiving.
Toward the end of his show, Taylor lists three things that can indeed pierce through our Bubble of Preparation; With apologies to the playwright, I'll prepare you for the surprise by saying: I won't spoil it.
But by all means, join the Taylor Mac revolution. It's only in town through Saturday.
7:30 p.m. Thursday 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday Cost: $15 Thursday; $20 Friday; $25 Saturday