Aimee, Billy Goat Experiment Theatre Company, at the Broadway Armory. This isn’t the first piece of biographical theater to feature a flamboyant babe from the sticks who achieves celebrity by acting as the charismatic conduit between the downtrodden and a powerful but uncommunicative guy–in this case God.
It’s easy to see how the life of Jazz Age evangelist and faith healer Aimee Semple McPherson might resonate with writer-star Lynn Marie and her enabler-director Steve Lehman: it has the same attraction as Eva Peron’s story. McPherson made religion attractive to the common folk (particularly, it seems, Klan members) by practicing a sort of vaudeville for the Lord. She knew how to fill a tent. She promised to heal, to relieve their poverty. As the first woman ever to deliver a radio sermon or get an FCC license, she is the mother of today’s tabloid televangelists.
One gets the feeling that the playwright was so enraptured by McPherson’s story that she felt compelled–called–to communicate it directly to the masses in almost three hours of earnest narration, relieved only by some quirky pantomime and crackly multimedia projections. With limited exceptions, the five actors who portray the dozens of other characters wear masks. Given the interminable exposition by the main character and the anonymity of her masked supporters, this feels like the most densely populated one-woman show in the history of theater. Not to mention the longest.