You might assume that a one-woman show called "Dixie's Tupperware Party," appearing at the Geffen Playhouse, would be an arch, campy sendup of living-room capitalism, an opportunity for Westwood intellectuals to look down on both multilevel marketing schemes and tipsy housewives pressing plastic containers on one another.
And you'd be right: It's all that. But it's also an actual Tupperware party. More surprisingly, at moments it's a sweet homage to the inventiveness and tenacity of the human spirit.
Hostess Dixie Longate, an Amazonian redhead in an incongruously girlish frock of her own design, not only plays a Tupperware lady onstage but really sells the products she exuberantly and raunchily pitches in her rapid-fire Alabama accent: You'll find an order form on your seat.
And whatever you think of Tupperware now, Dixie will make you believe you need it. Maybe you'll covet the container designed for onion halves — it's airtight, or as she pronounces it, "er-tight." Or the easy-to-operate corkscrew, which she introduces as "something for the car." Or the marinade container, even though after her lascivious instructions, you'll never be able to marinate anything without blushing.
You may just want it all. She's that good.
Dixie has been hosting Tupperware parties for 13 years. (Her second year she was honored as a top seller; she plays a video clip, getting misty.) By 2007, she had parlayed her shtick into an off-Broadway show that gave rise to this sleek touring production, its every light and sound cue falling into place like clockwork, directed by Patrick Richwood.
That would be a success story for anybody, but especially a fictional character: Dixie is the alter ego of actor/writer/female impersonator Kris Andersson. Legend has it that he invented her in response to a friend's dare.
Is it slightly ironic that generations of Tupperware ladies have toiled in obscurity, but when a drag queen enters the field, he cleans up and gets a 2008 New York Drama Desk Award nomination?
I couldn't help thinking so, especially during Dixie's paean to Brownie Wise, the creator of the Tupperware Party: "It took a woman!" Her sister act is a bit unpersuasive, not so much because she's actually a dude but because the dude makes his living by poking affectionate (right?) fun at women -- in particular Southern, low-income, "nice Christian ladies" who drink heavily, have questionable taste in men and live in trailers. (Dixie warmly tolerates Jews and Muslims too, though she gets mush-mouthed when she tries to pronounce their holidays: "Chaka Kahn" and "Ramada Inn.")
I admit, though, that my objections died for want of oxygen, because I was laughing too hard to breathe.
When you encounter a performer with comic timing this effortless, charisma this potent, you have to just sit back and let her roll over you like a steamroller in a blue dress and bouffant wig (designed by Rebecca A. Scott).
And roll she does. Those who don't enjoy being singled out for mockery (maybe it's just me?) should think twice before going. At the very least they shouldn't pay for onstage seating; and they should avoid the front five or six rows (which should be labeled, like the "Soak Zone" at SeaWorld).
On opening night, Dixie started out by choosing two victims, but the house lights kept going up as she selected fresh meat; I never felt safe.
Did abject terror contribute to my enjoyment? And did I actually find Dixie's account of why she loves Tupperware — she took courage from a shatterproof candy dish during a tough time in her life — deeply touching, or was it just that my adrenal system was flooded with relief because the house was finally dark?
I can't answer those questions, either. I'm too busy kicking myself for not buying that cake and cupcake caddy.