DIXIE'S TUPPERWARE PARTY at the Kirk Douglas Theatre
It wasn't long after I worked opposite a gifted young actor at the Stella Adler Theatre in a production of Martin Sherman’s classic shocker Bent—where Kris Andersson’s fine young naked derrière in the show’s ads and accompanying reviews did more to sell us out and extend a couple of times than yours truly in a bustier and pink satin bloomers singing about the doomed post-Kristallnacht “Streets of Berlin”—that Kris’ roommate hosted a prophetic Tupperware party at their West Hollywood home.
Of course, from the beginning of recorded time, most every member of that nomadic tribe called actors spends a lotta time trying figure out how to keep the Top Ramen from running out between bookings and here Kris was nothing if not enterprising on a worldclass scale. Deciding to take on the mantle of Tupper was his first life-changing decision, but it was a friend daring him to host the parties dressed as a hostess that opened the doors to fame and (hopefully) fortune.
From the humble beginnings of selling plastic self-sealing bowls and brightly-colored food storage containers in drag in his living room, traveling saleswoman extraordinaire Dixie Longate was born. Now, nearly 15 years later, long after its theatrical debut as a solo play at the New York Fringe Festival in 2004 and being nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance in 2007 when the restructured show transferred to off-Broadway, Dixie’s Tupperware Party is still at it.
A mere 11 years since our Alabama-bred trailer park-proud heroine started pedaling her wares at Ars Nova in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, Kris... er, Dixie... is still donning her shiny red Joan-Crawford-come-fuck-me stilettos and treading the boards all over the world, going on to play over 1,300 performances and, in the process, with Dixie becoming Tupperware’s highest producing sales representative in both the U.S. and Canada. “I've shown my bowls in five countries since this tour started in 2008,” Kris… dang!... Dixie… proclaims proudly, “but I haven't stopped there.”
Yes, Dixie is still hawking her products on a surprisingly large scale, the stage of the Kirk Douglas Theatre currently featuring a long collapsible holiday-festooned table piled high with merchandise guaranteed to make the kitchen-obsessed among us get wet in the panties and each seat tastefully adorned with the current Tupperware catalog, an order form, and even a ballpoint pen so audience members can circle their choices as they simultaneously laugh their heads off.
See, Dixie isn’t only amongst us to sell us Tupperware, thank goodness for people like me for whom the kitchen is a foreign country and already have a set of hermetically-sealed containers to keep our weed fresh and fragrant. Don’t get me wrong: Dixie’s Tupperware Party is, first and foremost, absolutely hilarious. It is uniquely energized by Our Miss Longate’s unearthly manic energy, blasting through an hour-and-a-half informercial like Bette Midler on uppers (been there) and throwing out a plethora of cleverly off-color innuendos tumbling from her ruby-red lips.
It’s really quite amazing that no one in her audience appeared to be offended—that is, of course, with the exception of the Thalians-esque westside diva seated next to us who looked as though her face had been permanently frozen in a severe windstorm and sported a diamond the size of my head, making me unsure if her horrified expressions were because she was deeply shocked by the performance or if the anesthetic was just beginning to wear off.
By first drawing us in by passing hard candy through the audience as she gifts us with her sweetly cuddly persona peeking out from the hard diner-waitress exterior and terminal blue eyeshadow, Dixie next reassures everyone present that, with Tupperware, “it’s okay to be retarded.”
I’m sure she sells a busload of Tupperware, considering the size of the nearly full Douglas Theatre last Saturday night or the Geffen Playhouse, where the show last played our reclaimed desert climes in 2014. Along the way, she makes friends with people from the audience, identifying them by nametags handed out in the lobby, occasionally making cracks about the lesbian couple seated on one side of the stage on a couch or, as she relates her most sketchy behavior through the years, asking the continually hysterical woman on the other couch, “Remember?”
Dixie brings other poor unsuspecting audience members onstage as well, on whom she also hurls a well-meant string of XXX-rated verbal abuse, getting one guy to demonstrate her company’s reinvented can opener which, she says, along with Cher and cockroaches will outlive a nuclear disaster.
Still, as wonderfully funny as all this is and as amazing is the non-stop, rapid string of dialogue Dixie spouts with a Southern drawl so thick it could also open the can of cranberries her guest is awarded as a booby prize for finally getting the trick to it, none of this is really what this Party is all about.
Along the way, while the single mother of three (Winona, DeWayne, and little Absorbine) explains she started selling her bounty after being gifted by a plastic faux-crystal bowl by her parole officer, which she still displays for us and holds tightly to her red-checkered bosom as she speaks. Soon she’s telling us the story of Brownie Wise, another socially-marginalized single mother who in the early 1950s created the ingenious and previously unheard-of idea for housewife-hosted home parties where Tupperware would only be available to the select few gathered rather than languishing without explanation of use on the dusty, overlooked shelves of retail stores.
Of course, Wise’s was a success story to rival Dixie’s own, something she reminds her audience frequently while staring reverently up at a projected image of her hero and mentor she never met or as she sits down on the edge of a coffee table to relate the story of her ex Hector, who tried to assault her by throwing her faux-crystal bowl at her orange beehived head. The bowl—and Dixie Longate—both survived unscathed, clearly making the point that lurking below all this silliness, no one should ever feel passed over, that anyone can rise from whatever conditions they feel are smothering them and turn those plastic bowls in our lives into symbols of our independence.
Above anything that could be said for Dixie… er, Kris’ clever, delightfully in-your-face, self-deprecating, and surely ever-evolving script, is the guy’s lightning-fast ability to improv his character’s perfect responses, especially in a segment where the audience is prompted to throw out questions “or Tuppermonials,” which he runs with as though he were onstage at Chicago’s Second City. His performance as his title character is astounding and even exhausting to watch. As I texted him later the night we attended, whatever he is “on,” I want some.
Although the idea of drag performers has surely become more mainstream since Kris first hit the road as his Dixie 11 years ago, this performance is so very much more. It’s not about crossdressing or imitating womanhood here and, within the show’s first 15 minutes, I’ll bet 98% of those in attendance have totally forgotten that underneath Dixie’s Hee-Haw-inspired regalia and Dolly Parton hairdo, is a person who knows firsthand that Dicks Elongate. His eyerolls are not Ru Paul-exaggerated but still easy to pick up on and his voice, though high-pitched, never once suggests a bad parody of Bette Davis in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Kris Andersson is a remarkable talent and his never-ending Party will surely rival the longevity of Cher, all those insufferable cockroaches, and that one damnable can opener. As Dixie Longate tells the world, “For anyone who has ever felt like they don’t matter, Dixie’s Tupperware Party is a Southern tale of empowerment that leaves your heart a little bigger and your food a little fresher.”
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