Within seconds of the Tiger Lillies loping merrily onto the St. Ann's Warehouse stage like invading buffoons, white-faced lead singer Martyn Jacques is crooning in his nasal counter-tenor about "depravity" and "debauchery." Not surprisingly, as the holiday celebration is called Suicide for Christmas. The jolt — for those, that is, not familiar with the group's predominant theme — is that as the three jolly madmen inch through their two-act, two-hour-plus Weimar kabarett-ish act, they continue the downbeat yet somehow upbeat insistence on life's less positive aspects. You'd think they couldn't ring so many changes on death and various determined approaches to it, but the Tiger Lillies prove you wrong.
Though they eventually do begin repeating themselves, their redundancies occur much later than you expect. Until then, they drone lyrically to an often oom-pah-pah beat on songs — all written by Jacques — like the hilarious "Your Suicides." In it, one unfortunate 93-year-old man has botched every suicide attempt he's ever made but is still convinced that he'll succeed some happy day. While Jacques chirps the lament, goofball sidekicks Adrian Huge (on drums) and Adrian Stout (on double bass and saw) repeatedly blurt, "You silly old sod." The humorous "Smell" begins with the graphic observation "I saw the piss running down your leg" and eventually gets to the sentiment "I love you, though you smell." It's an unusual love song, but a love song nonetheless. Another typical title is "Mortuary," which heralds the seasonal tidings that "the mortuary is near."
Clearly, the Tiger Lillies are not for all tastes, but that doesn't mean they don't deal in post-Weill-Brecht, post-Edward Gorey brilliance. They definitely fill the same need addressed by Mexico's celebration of the Day of the Dead: They face up to — revel in — the inevitability of death and the undeniable dark underbelly on society's porcine torso. Long live the Tiger Lillies. Better yet, long may they die.
Presented by and at St. Ann's Warehouse,
38 Water St., Brooklyn, NYC.
Dec. 13-15. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com or www.stannswarehouse.org.