The 99-Seat Beat: So long, Scrooge. These holiday shows have a feminine point of view
By Margaret Gray
Nov 30, 2018 | 6:00 AM
For those of us eagerly awaiting the fall of the patriarchy, December can be a discouraging month. Even theaters that support the cultural resistance abandon diversity in favor of “A Christmas Carol” or “The Nutcracker.” But say you’ve already internalized Dickens’ message that nothing short of supernatural intervention can teach a rich man empathy, or you’ve already seen the strong-jawed holiday decoration become self-aware, wage a race war, seduce an underage girl and whisk her off on an ethnocentric world tour?
If you’re ready for a show that challenges, questions, subverts or at least sends up a few of the assumptions of the hegemony, here are some less traditional theater options for this time of year.
“Dixie’s Tupperware Party” at the Kirk Douglas
The essentials: You may already appreciate reusable plastic containers, and you may concede that direct marketing advanced women’s economic independence. But if you don’t dissolve in red-faced, spluttering hysterics whenever you hear the word “Tupperware,” not to worry. You’re not a misfit! You’ve just never seen “Dixie’s Tupperware Party.”
Why this? Dixie Longate, hostess and star of this boisterous home-sales-party-turned-stage-show, was born Kris Andersson. The drag name may be a sophomoric pun, and she’s not necessarily the feminist advocate we all thought we needed. But meet her once and you’ll embrace her as a sister forever. (Sit in the back, though, if you don’t want to be asked what you do with leftover onion halves.) While you’re gasping with laughter at her hard-won Southern girl wisdom and ribald food-storage suggestions, you really can order Tupperware.
Details: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 30. $35 and up. (213) 628-2772 or dixiestupperwareparty.com
“Jane Austen’s Emma: The Musical” at the Chance
The essentials: Not Emma Stone, not Emma Thompson, not Emma Watson. This is Jane Austen’s Emma. Don’t let the empire-waist dresses and Georgian etiquette fool you: Austen was as savage a social critic as she was an irresistible storyteller. Fascists never see her stiletto-like anti-authoritarian message coming until she’s sliding it into their ribcages. Adding musical-theater numbers helps to mask the subversion. Is it a coincidence that Austen musicals are so popular lately?
Why this? Playwright, lyricist and composer Paul Gordon has a keen eye for pivotal feminist texts. He co-wrote the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Jane Eyre,” based on the Charlotte Bronte novel, and turned another Austen classic, “Sense and Sensibility,” into a musical. Casey Long, who directs Chance Theater’s holiday revival of Gordon’s melodious “Emma,” is a co-founder of the innovative resident company, which has introduced Anaheim to some of today’s edgiest playwrights.
Details: Chance Theater @ Bette Aiken Theater Arts Center, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. Opens 8 p.m. Saturday. 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 23. $31-$42. (888) 455-4212 or ChanceTheater.com
“Sugar Plum Fairy” at Skylight Theatre
The essentials: Since a “Nutcracker”-related trauma in middle school, Sandra Tsing Loh hasn’t really liked Christmas. She presents her objections to the season in this lively performance piece, which, ironically, is catching on as a holiday tradition. Bart DeLorenzo directed Loh and her co-stars Tony Abatemarco and Shannon Holt in “Sugar Plum Fairy” at South Coast Repertory last year; this time, at Skylight Theatre, the show promises to be even more intimate and interactive. Feel free to wear an ugly Christmas sweater.
Why this? Living in Southern California has its challenges, but they can’t tip the balance against one major perk: getting to watch Loh perform live. Others read her hilarious semi-autobiographical writing and hear her on NPR, and she occasionally performs in other states. But Angelenos are regularly invited to sit with her and experience her take on life.
The essentials: Founded this year by musician and actor Ari Stidham (of TV’s “Scorpion”), the Irreverent Shakespeare Project specializes in highly orthodox, traditional stagings of the Bard’s plays. Just kidding! They do contemporary interpretations in backyards. Shakespeare wrote many more roles for men than women — and men played the women’s roles anyway. “Julius Caesar,” among the most phallocentric of the lot, seems like a good place to begin redressing the gender imbalance.
Why this? Asked what she hoped to accomplish with this production, director Heather Ann Gottlieb told Broadway World, “I’d love if the audience left thinking ‘Wow, women are … powerful.’”
Details: Outdoor venues are in Tarzana and South Pasadena (addresses provided upon ticket purchase), and the closing night is at Hudson Loft, 1200 S. Hope St., L.A. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (see website for exceptions). Ends Dec. 15. $20-$30. irreverentshakespeare.com
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our reviewers shortlist offerings with an emphasis on smaller venues. Some (but not all) recommendations are shows we've seen; others are based on the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. You can find comprehensive theater listings every Sunday at latimes.com/arts.