Starlight Theatre’s first “Starlight Indoors” winter season kicked off Tuesday night with the silly “Dixie’s Tupperware Party.” The show offers a wholly different atmosphere from the venue’s usual family-friendly fare — and that’s a welcome thing.
“Dixie” doesn’t have a story. Instead, it’s a hybrid of monologue and stand-up comedy routine, in the guise of an actual Tupperware party. In fact, when audiences file into the Cohen Community Stagehouse, actually the main Starlight stage itself, (shielded from the elements by a weatherproof enclosure), they’ll find a real-life Tupperware catalog, order form and ballpoint pen on every seat.
(Those seats, by the way, are comfortably padded, sturdy banquet-style metal chairs, generously spaced on tiered platforms rising from the stage at floor level. There isn’t a bad vantage point in the house.)
This is the crazy thing: Dixie Longate, the hostess for the evening, has actually been selling the high-quality plastic bowls, colanders and other gewgaws since 2001, when performer Kris Andersson threw his first party in drag. Look up his name on YouTube and marvel at his showmanship even when out of drag.
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Andersson honed his schtick into a one-man/woman show, which debuted at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, and has been touring it around the world ever since. It’s an understatement to call him comfortable in his skin, and in the role.
The pun of Dixie Longate’s name sums up the tenor of the whole show: It’s bawdy, even dirty at times. Many bad words are spoken aloud. But it’s never sleazy or gratuitous, even when the subject matter turns to sex and drinking — Dixie’s favorite subjects.
Audience participation is an essential element, as Dixie pulls several viewers up onstage. Some variously participate in a game of skill, learn how to use a specialized can opener, or even mime a bit of boudoir technique, as one hilariously game woman who said she’d been married for 57 years did on opening night.
But unlike Don Rickles or Lisa Lampanelli, Andersson isn’t aiming to embarrass or humiliate anyone. His Dixie is an ex-con mother of three who’s just trying to feed the kids and furnish her trailer by selling food-storage products she believes in wholeheartedly. Sure, she likes her Jack Daniel’s and chardonnay. And if she suspects you’re fibbing about not enjoying the same, she has your number.
The physical production is bare-bones: two mismatched couches and coffee tables, and a display table for Dixie’s wares. Richard Winkler’s lighting is serviceable, and would be out of place if it were showier. Christopher K. Bond’s sound design is well executed most of the time, though a couple of cues were ear-piercingly loud.
Andersson’s voice was obviously hoarse on Tuesday, but his energy level never faltered. In fact, I heard multiple fellow audience members express astonishment at his stamina as we filed out of the theater.
Sure, Dixie dispenses some aspirational platitudes about the resiliency of Brownie Wise, the enterprising woman who devised the concept of sales parties. Her vision led to the rise of Tupperware, and many other similar success stories such as Kansas City’s own Silpada Designs. Wise’s story is an inspiring one, and will be told in a movie starring Sandra Bullock.
But this is a show about Andersson’s wit and timing, not a Tupperware pep talk. Fans of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will see in Dixie something of a hybrid of BenDeLaCreme’s sweetness and Bianca Del Rio’s sass.
If you’re easily offended, this show isn’t for you. But the opening-night partygoers roared throughout their brisk 90 minutes with Dixie Longate, and not even the objects of her teasing seemed to hold a grudge.