“Martha. Listen to me. My mother asked me to kill her.” (Lily)
Butterfly Kiss unfolds to fill the limbo between the arrest and trial of Lily Ross, for matricide: “I’ve been reading a lot lately. Sensational crime cases. Mostly murder cases. There’s a vested interest, I’ll admit.”
A telling stage direction: ‘The time is the present, the imagined past and the imagined future’. And it’s the continual, cumulative overlap of times, spaces, places, the bleed between dialogue and monologue, the dance of figures skipping in and out of each other’s orbits which makes Butterfly Kiss so almost liquid crystal. Form solidifies in patterns around events – each of which lasts a matter of minutes, sometimes moments, before dissolving, allowing the configuration to refacet itself. It’s more fluid again than Weldon Rising‘s series of circular frames – and feels as freshly freestyle and futureproof as Churchill & Lan’s A Mouthful of Birds or Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis.
“It’s a long time before I actually speak to Lily. I was transferred quite a bit, you see, and I could taste the distance between us through the telephone lines. As if each transfer, each click of each switchboard, took me deeper underground. Under something I could not accept.” (Martha)
Another stage direction reads: ‘Although Lily’s age ranges substantially during the course of the play, no attempt should be made to ‘play’ the younger ages.’ This is how to do contemporary unrealism: ‘”How old did you say you were, Lily? Forty-six? Twelve? Seventy-seven?” (Jenny) Reverberating through the play’s ‘real’ world, Lily’s mother (Jenny) becomes demented, old before even her own mother (Lily’s grandmother, Sally): “I could leave you here, you know that. Let you rot in place. Shrivel up with a shot glass in one hand and a blood pressure kit in the other. I shrivel little by little myself, just thinking about how I could have given birth to something like you.” Time out of joint.
Vignettes from Lily’s life evaporate into one another, sometimes react. Her awakening sexuality. Her parents’ mistaken lovematch: “Your daddy was a wrong number, Lily, who ought never been answered.” (Jenny); “My father is a scientist. He likes to watch.” (Lily) Her latest (last?) relationship, with Martha – another source of simmering tension between Lily and her mother and grandmother. Ultimately, it is the casual everyday cruelty between the three that drives toward an end with no consummation, conclusion, or verdict – only an act of deep, hidden love.