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Reaching into Infinity: 'Bark of Millions' at BAM

Updated: May 22

Peggy Hepburn's 3-Word Review: Duration! Camp! Queerstory!

You would be forgiven, dear reader, for mistaking Bark of Millions for an after-hours slumber party whose guest list is comprised of German Expressionist-leaning, rainbow-hued Vegas showgirls from the 1960s doing karoake in Taylor Mac’s surrealist-inspired bedroom, and, quite frankly, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The stage/bedroom was littered with ivory furniture in the shapes of various body parts — wraparound hands for a divan (complete with bracelets & red nail polish), a foot as a stool, boobs as poofs, a penis & a vagina for good measure — and into this bodily vista came a-wondering our cast as if just arriving from a long night of slinging cocktails in a David Lynch-style casino, or from doing the can-can alongside Jessica Rabbit in Toon Town.

This one was a doozy: four hours with no intermission, but the explicit option to wander at will (half the audience left at the 2-hour mark) — a microcosm of Mac's legendary 24-hour performance piece, 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Bark of Millions is clearly a little sister to the 24-hour show, and is comprised of a song cycle of 55 songs, one for each year since the first Pride Parade, each inspired by a queer person from history, though the songs were more ekphrastic than literal, and required reference to the digital fan deck (how I wish it were physical! I’m a lover of the tangible, after all, we all are here at Humphrey Magazine). The music was all by Mr. Mac, a melodic rock-and-roll accompanied by the odd combination of standard rock group plus a miniature brass section & a violin & cello.

The costumes by Machine Dazzle (interviewed last year by our own Art Fart!) were the standout, and were perhaps even more raucous and energetic than the 4-hour performance. You know, I kept expecting a bit of high-camp choreography (those costumes were begging to move!), but perhaps that’s asking too much — my mind can’t help but wander to the visceral experience of the performers in the show, and this one was so long, I can only imagine the rehearsal process. Thus the loungey style. At times it felt better suited for a come-as-you-please cabaret in a basement at a dive bar, and this mood felt at odds with the large, crowded auditorium at BAM. Still, the sheer conceptual spectacle of it was full of audacity and verve, and one can’t help but respect it, even if the singing was a bit pitchy and the presentation a bit sleepy. I must say, the overall idea of reverse gay conversion therapy is hilarious and worth exploring further — the opportunity to expand is infinite, and I’m curious to see where Mac goes next. Gay church, you say? Amen, says I!

—Peggy Hepburn

Photos by Julietta Cervantes. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).


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