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A CurtainUp Review
The Walk Across America for Mother Earth

Lina Zeldovich

If decades do go by — Angie
And nuclear bombs still exist — Kelly
And people continue to be destroyed? — Angie
And peace never comes .— Kelly What then? — Angie
Taylor Mac
The playwright and actor Taylor Mac> (Photo: Darien Bates)
If Priscilla Queen of the Desert (in which a gay trio embarks on a journey across Australia in a ramshackled bus) married South Park (an American sitcom featuring four crazy kids who end up in beyond bizarre adventures), they would give birth to The Walk Across America for Mother Earth by Taylor Mac. The play a co-production of La MaMa and the downtown troupe the Talking Band is based on the playwright's own experience when he participated in a nine-month protest walk to attract the United States government's attention to the Nevada's nuclear test site, built on the land that was taken back from the Shoshone Nation.

A handful of iconoclasts embark on the cross-country hike from New York to Nevada in order to chain themselves to "a bowling alley to protest the nuclear arms." The characters, as outlandish as they are nonetheless believable and encompass a gamut of personalities.

Besides Kelly a young, idealistic gay played by Mac, there are the flamboyant Greeter (James Tigger Ferguson), and Nick (Will Badgett) is "committed to being homeless by choice", and thinks Kelly raped him in a prior life. Nicely adding to the mix, is a lesbian duo, Angie and Marsha. Angie marches with a step stool buckled to her rear which she uses as a soapbox every chance she gets to make a proclamation. Marsha, Angie's moustached partern suffers from cancer which she attempts to self-treat with urine therapy. King Arthur (Steven Rattazzi), a big guy with an even bigger mane of hair and tastes for dumpster-diving treats, leads the commune, accompanied by his hippie girlfriend Flower (Ellen Maddow). There's also a trio of Belgians who joined the riot because "Belgians have an unnatural fixation for all things Native American" and a couple of symbolic characters named Grass (Frank Paiva) and Creek (Alex Franz Zehetbauer).

L This satirical cross-country romp of people united with a purpose. lampoons just about every radical group, every political, human right and alternative lifestyle organization. The question is, which one? All the members in the eclectic commune have their own readily shared reason for their laborious effort. And so they march to stop "global warming", to "support the organic food movement", to "release political prisoners" , to "halt the U.S. nuclear program", as well as half a dozen of other causes.

Nine months is a long time so lots of things happen on the way to their destination. Relationships form and die, dreams and disillusions chase each other.

Angie discovers she is bisexual, one of the Belgians, Rainbow Carl, (Jack Wetherall) shares his childhood traumas of having to scale fish in his father's market, and King Arthur forces a fellow walker into an unwanted sexual encounter. In the second act, a tornado sweeps the commune away, symbolizing the emotional turbulence the walkers are going through. By the time the group gets to Nevada, they're not even sure why they've come. As Kelly says "We're getting closer and closer to the test site, and I'm getting further and further away from caring about it."

Although The Walk Across America calls itself a musical, the songs are rare and few; it's more of a play with a couple of musical numbers thrown in. The instrument of choice is a guitar, which Beeka — another Belgian (Viva Deconcini), diligently hugs and occasionally plays throughout the show. We're left wishing for more songs since the lyrics are funny and sardonic. Though a couple of songs were cut out of the show itself, they are performed during the intermission while the crowd mingles with the extravagantly-clad Grass and Creek, who let themselves be petted by the spectators.

The show owes much of its success to Darrell Thorne's colorful make-up and Machine Dazzle's costumes which are as dramatic as they are dazzling —a cross between a drag queen's fashion extravaganza and an acid trip. Even when the dialogue becomes repetitive, there are enough luminous fabric, colorful foundations and outlandishly spectacular embellishments to keep you engaged.

Though you'll hear every political and alternative lifestyle cliché ever heard quoted, the colorfully cartoonish characters do give it a new twist. The plot has a vague sense of purpose and it's unclear why some characters are even there. Mac's nine-month walk, which most likely suffered from the same vagueness. A lot of loose ends do get answered in the fin al exchange between Kelly and Angie. Yet, the mood and atmosphere is authentic and, thanks to Paul Zimmet's direction, the seemingly disjointed commune is portrayed by a cast that works well together.

Our society needs people who are able and willing to march across the country s to defend their ideals and protest against social ills. After all, most of us won't.

The Walk Across America for Mother Earth
Written by Taylor Mac
Directed by Paul Zimet
Cast: Taylor Mac (Kelly), Daphne Gaines (Angie), Steven Rattazzi (King Arthur), Ellen Maddow (Flower),Tina Shepard (Marsha),Will Badgett (Nick), Viva DeConcini (Beeka), James Tigger! Ferguson (Greeter), Frank Paiva (Grass/Wakenhut), Jack Wetherall (Rainbow Carl), Alex Franz Zehetbauer (Creek/Wakenhut) and Nikki Zialcita (Jimica/Key Key).
Sets: Anna Kiraly
Costumes: Machine Dazzle
Lighting: Lenore Doxsee
Music: Ellen Maddow
Stage Manager: Robert Signom III
Ellen Stewart Theater at 66 E. 4th St. New York, NY 10003 212-475-7710
Opening 1/20/ 11/closing 1/30/11.
Wed-Sat @7:30pm. Sat @2:30 pm Sun @5pm.
Reviewed by Lina Zeldovich based on Jan 20 press performance
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