Dixie's Tupperware Party
nytheatre.com review by Matt Johnston
May 3, 2007
I always knew that the chances that I would actually attend a Tupperware party in my lifetime were extremely slim. I am happy to report, though, that if all such events are anywhere near as entertaining and fun as Dixie's Tupperware Party at Ars Nova, I would be going four times a week. This new production, written by Kris Andersson with additional material by Elizabeth Meriwether, is pure theatrical bliss. It is by far one of the funniest, most well executed productions I have seen this year.
The premise is self explanatory: it's Dixie's Tupperware party, and we're all invited. Walking into the theatre I saw a full bar open for the festivities, and numerous small, circular tables to sit around, ripe for energetic conversation. Dixie, on the other hand, was already working hard to make us all feel comfortable and ready to buy some plastic. As the evening unfolds, Dixie's event becomes much more than a Tupperware party, but rather, a story of one woman's journey from a trailer park in Mobile, Alabama, to the height of North American Tupperware stardom.
Dixie's party is not your average plastic sale. She holds raffles and intense Tupperware "rimming" matches, and has an engaging and hilarious story to tell. All of this is big enough to match the enormously likable and uproarious Dixie herself: quick witted, raunchy, personable, and a passionate seller of Tupperware.
It is no surprise that a production so risky, smart, and inventive is helmed by Les Freres Corbusier artistic director Alex Timbers, who also brought us Hell House, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, Heddatron, and the fantastic Gutenberg! The Musical!, among others. There is a history in this body of work that pioneers new ways of experiencing theatre, and a new perspective on the relationship between spectator and performer. Dixie is no exception to this rule. Writer Elizabeth Meriwether, set designer Cameron Anderson, video designer Jake Pinholster, and composer Sam Forman are also frequent collaborators of Timbers and his cutting edge theatre company, and they are the perfect match for the second incarnation of this show, written by Kris Andersson, which was originally performed at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2004.
The belle of the ball, though, is Dixie herself [portrayed by Andersson]. She manages to keep us engaged with her story and personality from start to finish, never leaving behind her passion for selling Tupperware. She freely interacts with the crowd, involves them in her shenanigans, and always wows us with her sharp wit throughout. In a strange way we identify with this trailer park uproot from Mobile, Alabama and want her to sell that Tupperware just as much as she wants it. I was laughing hysterically pretty much throughout, as was the rest of the audience around me.
Timbers's direction is precise and free-flowing, as he creates this gloriously well-executed and precise event while still giving Dixie plenty of freedom to play inside this world she so cherishes. A sense of community is created and the boundaries between actor and audience are demolished. I got a sense from those around me that rather than be intimidated by the notion of audience participation, everyone wanted to play along in the fun, and get just a step closer to this strange, provocative, colorful human being named Dixie whom they had met tonight and grown to love.
What I can promise you about this party at Ars Nova is there will never be a dull moment, you will witness an incredibly talented performer, and have a completely different experience than you have likely ever had in a theatre. And you might just want to buy some cheap plastic on your way out too.