To fully savor the classical nuances that flourish in PlayhouseSquare's presentation of Dixie's Tupperware Party, you may want to take a cursory glance at your moldering high-school Cliff's Notes. Playwright-actor Kris Andersson and director Patrick Richwood have obviously spent many scholarly years cruising around ancient Greek and bawdy Roman farces.
This learned frolic comes equipped with the Aristotelian unities: action (will desperate Dixie unload her plastic products?); place (a Tupperware-strewn living room); and time (90 minutes). Its fidelity to the antiquity includes its semi-tragic heroine betrayed by a male wearing a drag variation of an ancient Athenian mask. And in a further allegiance to the past, she walks in grotesquely elevated heels.
In its tribute to Roman farce, our lusty Dionysian heroine transforms each Tupperware product into some form of phallic pleasure, while cunningly turning six onstage ladies (audience volunteers) into her Greek chorus.
Andersson also pledges fidelity to the noble art of female impersonation. If the lauded Varla Jean Merman is the Sarah Bernhardt of this art, then Andersson is a sort of Eleanora Duse. Following the drag unities, he strives for the de rigueur mid-'70s, overripe, auburn lushness of mid-career Ann-Margret.
We're not sure which ancient god decreed it, but following this deity's laws, Andersson's Dixie has a trailer-trash pedigree, a voracious libido and an astounding need to wiggle her derriere and proclaim innuendo-laden remarks with regularity. The apotheosis is a tale of her teenage daughter in London discovering the joys of hot Dickens cider. At first we take this literally, and then — in true Mae West manner — the sexual connotation delightfully rises up inside of us.
Taking time off from studying these great works of antiquity, Andersson apparently also paid attention to slightly less antiquated Don Rickles reruns. Like ye olde master of comic effrontery, Dixie has the ability to select unsuspecting audience members and chew on them like a poodle with a juicy bone. Thus, on opening night, a hefty front-row woman, a little too honest about her sexual orientation, became Dixie's lesbian rival.
One of Andersson's special talents is improv. He/she takes questions from the audience, does production numbers about how Tupperware can keep a pickle fresh and tells stories like the one about the tragic fate of Brownie Weiss, founder of the Tupperware party, who was fired by the company and died broke.
To appreciate the show, let us look at the balls that Andersson juggles. As in all drag, the meaning of femininity is on trial — here cleverly tied to kitsch and domesticity. Without an overdose of profundity but a fair amount of fun, Dixie's Tupperware Party proves Oscar Hammerstein II wrong: there most certainly is something like a dame.