Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Good, funny, beautiful: Taylor Mac at La MaMa

For a play that ends by starkly reminding viewers of our responsibility to right the world's wrongs--and thus write the happy ending its lead character clearly deserves--Good Person of Szechwan can be a rollicking good time. At least, that's the way this Brecht classic is delivered at La MaMa in The Foundry Theatre's charming production, directed by Lear deBessonet with Taylor Mac as sweet-hearted hooker Shen Tei.

Suddenly given a chance for financial stability--a reward for showing hospitality to a trio of visiting deities--the empathetic, well-intentioned Shen Tei seems only to attract all the greed and mendacity this sorry world holds. Among other inevitabilities, she falls hard for a questionable guy and lands in quite a messy pot of trouble.

Taylor Mac--first seen spewing azalea-colored petals from his lips as his bald head emerges from a hole in the ground--can render Shen Tei's physical delicateness just so in every moment. Catch this one: "Please be patient [giving the skirt of his tomato-red gown a lyrical swish] just a little." Yet when disguised as "cousin" Shui Ta in a pin-striped suit, bowler and curly mustache, the romantic and put-upon Shen Tei turns quite kickass. In the end, adversity and necessity lead her to understand the imperfection in people and glimpse the fierce range of possibility within herself.

Mac's juicy central performance, the terrific physical work of David Turner (as the Waterseller) in the first act and Lisa Kron's comic touches throughout are unforgettable.

Matt Saunder's re-imagining of the Ellen Stewart Theatre--lit by Tyler Micoleau and energized by the hipster folk music of César Alvarez, performed live by The Lisps--transforms it into an even more intimate space while utilizing quite a bit of airspace above the usual stage. It resembles a pop-up book. With influences as diverse as vaudeville, doo wop and drag theater, the Foundry gives Brecht's political soap opera irresistible glow and buoyancy.

Now through February 24. For schedule and ticketing information, click here.

La MaMa (Ellen Stewart Theatre)
66 East 4th Street (2nd Floor), Manhattan

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