Cast of The Walk Across For Mother Earth.
BOTTOM LINE: Part glittery drag show, part political satire, Taylor Mac returns to New York with a show that is all entertainment.
Come for the glorious glitz Taylor Mac is known for, stay for the delicious and often scathing commentary on radical activism in America. Feisty, fun and flamboyant, Mac's new play, The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, is now playing at LaMaMa.
True to the title, and based on Mac's actual experiences, the story follows a rag-tag bunch of radicals (ranging from mind-warped hippies to Native American-loving Belgians) on their cross-country on-foot sojourn from New York to atomic bomb testing facilities in Nevada. Beginning on January 31st, 1992, this nine-month trek was to protest Indigenous People's land rights and nuclear research.
Starting out happy and wholeheartedly behind their cause, the cast of twelve buoyantly discuss their mission and firm belief in their ability to shut down the nuclear site. But the feel-good patchwork quilt of radical beliefs blanketing the group begins to show its seams the further into the journey the team gets. Suddenly, questions about purpose, sexuality and the possibility of success from radical activism rush in and announce themselves, much like cars passing them on the road, loudly dispersing the group into smaller cliques.
This microcosm of activist culture, as Mac presents it, smartly integrates biting commentary on America and the attitude about it so many Americans harbor. Repeated is the derogatory term, "real-Americans," whose such "embarrassing" and "pathetic" characteristics, such as not having passports, can even be attributed to those within the group. Well articulated is the quandary: if the "real-Americans" won't change the country and if, out of sheer disdain for the country, no one else will take responsibility for that change, then how will progress transpire?
The action is shown mostly through the ever-moving actors; always headed toward the event horizon out in front of them, always facing audience. Several moving flats join in now and again to help illustrate the action, but Machine Dazzle's decadent, larger-than-life costumes (inextricably linked to Mac's aesthetic) are visually sumptuous enough to entertain the eye.
Mac's thoughtful script is a testament to his actual involvement in the 1992 Walk at the tender age of 19. He beautifully articulates the process of losing faith while still forging ahead with such a project, both from fear of failure and fear of the alternative. Whether or not Mac went on the Walk out of passion or skepticism for the cause, his play intelligently explores the power and the pitfalls in having a naïve faith in the ability to create change.
The incredibly gung-ho and talented cast of twelve boast great comedic timing as well as impressive vocals. Mac's script is punctuated by a number of songs, all of which pleasant to listen to, though not all entirely intelligible.
Cutely, the intermission is filled with cast/audience bonding: provided are snacks (popcorn with nutritional yeast), henna and hair braiding, all the while serenaded by songs that didn't make the show's final cut. Though the play could have benefited from going without an interval, this seldom seen mingling of "talent" and turnout is a treat.
Touching on a barrage of issues from domestic abuse to overarching American politics, all the while fabulously attired, Mac and his rambunctious radicals are a true two-hour delight.
(The Walk Across America For Mother Earth plays at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, through January 30, 2011. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30PM, Saturday 2:30pm and 7:30PM, Sunday at 5:00pm. Tickets are $25 and are available at ovationtix.com or by calling 866.811.4111. For more info visit lamama.org.)