Where to even begin with Taylor Mac’s poignant, provocative, in-your-face premiere of Comparison is Violence last night? Comparison in this instance is also pointless, as Mac is as original a creation as Adam — or Eve, as the case may warrant. Mac is what is commonly known as a didact and a provocateur, which politely means he encourages people to rethink their assumptions, and more practically means he takes your money and spends two hours pissing in your face and making you feel like you have been uplifted and entertained and also taken down a notch.
The filled-to-capacity Emmett Robinson Theatre on Friday night was full of prototypical Spoleto personae, which as far as Mac is concerned means means the “oligarchy": wealthy, privileged, white, whiter, and whitest. (“It’s so diverse at Spoleto,” Mac remarked, “there so many different kinds of white people.” The one black person in the front rows was “a peppercorn in a sea of salt”). I’ll let others regale you with critical commentary on Mac’s extraordinary show, which comprised as much improvisation as it did scripted cabaret theatre. It was a performance, yes, but it was at least as much a lecture aimed at Mac’s favorite target: ideological conservatives of every stripe (see “oligarchy” above). In this respect, Mac had a captive audience, and he made the most of it, alternately praising the audience and then smacking the compliment away with a sneer. But oh, such sneers they are, full of promises and perfume, needles and knives, hope, desperation, disgust, mockery, and despair.
Taylor Mac hates you as much as he loves you, and the fact that he notices you at all should make you feel very lucky indeed.
Addendum: a brief and incomplete list of people who are likely to take personal offence from Taylor Mac’s Comparison is Violence: white people, black people, people from the South, fundamentalist Christians, missionaries, fans of Lady Gaga or Ricky Schroeder or Socrates, people who believe in American exceptionalism, people who masturbate, fat people, Greek people, Tea Party members, homophobes, assholes, straight-lacers, and people who believe that a man wearing false eyelashes, a red wig, copious glitter, and sequined hot pants has no place in a decent performing arts festival set in the birthplace of the Confederacy.
Please note this list is not comprehensive. It’s entirely possible, even probable, that you may not see yourself in this list and yet will still be offended by something in Comparison in Violence; this critic and the City Paper take no responsibility for your peace of mind or sense of self-worth after seeing this performance.