Mickey Mouse, Consumer Narcosis, Disney tchotchkes and the internet are not the usual fare for preachers, but "The Church of Billy" is no ordinary house of worship. Solo Performer Bill Talen returns to New York once again in the latest incarnation of his Reverend Billy character in the eponymously titled The Church of Stop Shopping, playing both at The Present Company's Theatorium, May 27, 28, 29.
The Reverend Billy continues with his preachings -- "We believe in a God that people who don't believe in God believe in," as well as his infamous, "Mickey Mouse is the Anti-Christ" in his latest, which was developed while preaching the summer away in Times Square -- across from the aforementioned Disney Store.
According to producing director Elena Holy, a recent "interactive" segment of Rev. Billy's performance had audience members plant tape recorders behind merchandise on shelves in the Disney Store, so that the tapes would blare anti-consumer, anti-Disney sentiments at unsuspecting shoppers (e.g., "These Disney tchotchkes cause memory loss!"). Rev. Billy did not go join the fray; he's forbidden by court order to go into the store for six months. He did, however, organize and oversee the audio onslaught from "the command post at the 46th Street Hojo's."
In previous productions, The Reverend held a sermon during act one, bringing Billy and audience members to Times Square's Disney Store in act two for "a shopping spree." Rev. Billy took on the Disneyfication of midtown in his previous NYC gig, I Was a Tourist in the New Times Square, at HERE in October 1998.
The play's title refers to the day the Reverend "experienced defilement" after boldly making his way through the hellmouth of Disney in order to purchase a turquoise plastic Minnie Mouse dressed as the Statue of Liberty. The Reverend urges us to fight the "mousy hello that sweeps down Broadway." Talen's preacher gained a cult following through a public access television show, eventually leading to a Web radio show ( The Church of Billy's Website) and live performances, in New York's Times Square. Web surfers are urged to e-mail their own private "Godsightings" and personal theologies to the Reverend at his website.
For tickets ($10) and information on Reverend Billy at The Theatorium (212) 420-8877.
-- By Sean McGrath and David Lefkowitz