Saucy & soulful Taylor Mac
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Dreadlocked and ample-breasted, the infant Christ (sidhe degreene) lolled in a straw-lined cradle, sucking first her thumb and later a 40 oz. malt liquor with the fervor of a peen-parched fellatiophile.
As the impresario and titular star of "Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce" sashayed downstage to lead his Curran Theater congregation in a rousing rendition of "Oh Holy Night," the wee savior cried out in vain to save her own spotlight: "Nobody puts Baby Jesus in the corner!"
Good luck with that one, J.C.
All formal aspects of traditional Christendom — which Mac deems "Patriarchy as Spirituality" — are gleefully shoved aside in favor of a "Radical Faerie Realness Ritual" in the MacArthur-winning performance artist's orgiastic baccha-noel. From a buck naked Angel Gabriel to a phallically gifted Santa, to Mac's stirringly sung reframing of Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones songs as commentary on the holiday season, this carnival-cum-concert is not your grandparents' Christmas pageant.
Not Mac's grandparents' either, it turns out. In the show's most emotionally gripping section, about two-thirds of the way through, Mac gives his music director, Matt Ray, and snazzy eight-piece band a break. Alone at center stage, he strums a ukulele and sings a candid original composition about his extended family. What at first seems a whimsical ditty soon evolves into a piercing lament about the scars left by multi-generational dysfunction, and an explanation of how Mac vows to cover them with glitter.
Suddenly the locally recruited choir of senior citizens that has occasionally chimed in throughout the evening has new meaning. They're a willful reframing — not only of Mac's grandparents, but of whole generations unwilling to accept queer people or anyone else superficially different from themselves. As much as this show's outré elements might put off certain audiences, Mac suffuses the whole with a wish for all to be welcome, at any celebration.
"Irreverence," he tells us, sharing wisdom offered by his late drag mentor Flawless Mother Sabrina, "is a tool, not a lifestyle."
That said, sincerity is a tool as well, one that Mac swung awfully hard and not particularly precisely in several meandering speeches about his sociopolitical leanings, which are quite clearly pre-approved by his self-selecting audience, and far more elegantly expressed in the body of his performance. One of the more annoying hallmarks of patriarchal spirituality is preaching to the converted.
Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce plays the Curran Theater through Dec 1. Tickets from $29. (415) 358-1220, www.sfcurran.com