The Young Ladies of...
Through Jan. 11
One must give Taylor Mac credit. As he explained to Friday night's audience at Playmakers' production of his one-man show The Young Ladies of..., he had been rushed to the hospital for a kidney stone the night before (he was still passing it) and was, in his words, "hopped up on Vicodin" for his performance. And yet, he never let it get in his way; at no point in his hour and 20-minute performance did he seem anything less than energetic and in the moment, despite his own proclamation that he felt like he was "swimming in a sea of fluorescent lights."
Clad in a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-style dress and makeup, Mac's show takes the form of his quest to find out about the father he never knew, 2nd Lt. Robert Mac Bowyer, who died when he was 4 years old. Mac's mother sent him some letters she had discovered addressed to his father; unfortunately for Mac, they're all from women responding to a personals ad Mr. Bowyer placed while stationed overseas.
Mac's frustration comes from wondering how his father, the product of a horrifically macho Texan family, would have responded to his flamboyantly gay lifestyle, and the show is structured in the form of a "singing telegram" to his father done through a ukulele rendition of "The Soliloquy" (aka "My Boy Bill") from Carousel, his father's favorite film.
Mac's show is a curious mixture of intimate and broad ideas; in the end, his confusion over his father extends to frustration over blue and red states, his family, and the nature of masculinity and femininity. Indeed, Mac admits his over-the-top performance art is both an act of defiance and a cry for acceptance, just as Carousel is built around a slap "that feels like a kiss." And yet, this angst doesn't feel depressing because it's built around a monologue that includes slide shows, a lot of letters on stage, and occasional audience participation. Whether it's dealing with his father's past or his kidney stone, Mac is a wonderfully joyous performer—and The Young Ladies of... is a wonderfully joyous show.