It's been more than seven years since my public humiliation at Dixie's Tupperware Party, where my sadly deficient filling, stacking and rimming skills were mercilessly exposed in open competition. So yes, there was some wariness when I returned to Booth Playhouse for another Dixie rendezvous, hoping not to be dragged onstage again. Dixie Longate, nee Kris Andersson, rides again in another declasse audience-participation romp, Dixie's Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull.
The bull is not metaphorical but, cordoned off with crime-scene tape, it's not operational either. No worries about being called upon to ride the thing. We're not in Dixie's trailer home anymore but at a honky-tonk where she works in Mobile, Alabama — personalized with a Tupperware corner, a miniature wheel-of-fortune, a heap of paper crowns, and a stash of MoonPies, the best mental health medicine she knows.
Since the subtitle of Andersson's script is "and 16 OTHER THINGS I learned while I was DRINKING last Thursday," you can expect a twisting, labyrinthine monologue from Dixie, with a heavy emphasis on the glories of getting drunk. The chalkboard at Dixie's honky-tonk isn't big enough to list all 16 of her lessons, but she can certainly cross out the notation that designates 4-7 p.m. as "Happy Hour" and proclaim that all of the other 17 hours of each day should also be happy hours. Dixie's math isn't the strongest, but she has a point.
And boy-oh-boy, Dixie can talk a blue streak. I didn't remember her speaking nearly as rapidly in 2009 at her Tupperware Party. It can be really hard keeping up with all the jokes, anecdotes, and bon mots she's spouting. Some of them, like "When you get on your knees, Jesus comes," take some time to digest.
Why, the rapid-fire pace actually seems to take a toll on Dixie herself. At times, blathering sounds will come out of her mouth for a few seconds, and I couldn't tell whether she had drawn a blank on the words she was supposed to say next or whether the words were twisting her tongue.
All in all, Dixie's monologue is closer to standup than storytelling, with plenty of romper room activities punctuating the flow. There are recurring strands in the spiel we can latch onto, like MoonPies, tigers, booze, and Julie Andrews. Just don't be surprised if, when one of these recurs, you're wondering what the connection is. Dixie's method doesn't necessarily cancel out the madness.
Evidently, we're intended to consider ourselves as passengers on a tour bus waiting out a storm before traveling on to New Orleans. There are claps of thunder, flickering lights, and Charles R. MacLoed's lighting design even has a blackout, so Dixie can exit and crank up the generator. I can't say we arrive at the rapport that proverbially sprouts up between strangers unexpectedly stuck together during a storm, but the premise of needing to kill time seems to amply justify Dixie's rambling and her nervous energy.
She'll take a shine to a select few audience members sitting in the front rows of the Booth, bringing a mix of couples and singles onstage. The crowds — and victims — will vary, of course. On press night, when my wife Sue and I attended, the Booth audience wasn't the liveliest that Dixie will have during her three-week run. Between us and the stage, I didn't see any of the couples take up Dixie's invitation to dance with one another. That was during an interlude when an audience member's wheel-of-fortune spin landed on a 60-second jukebox break.
When a second spin came up on another jukebox break, Dixie exhorted audience members to dance with complete strangers this time. Well, you know that didn't happen, right? But if you go between now and the 24th, it just might.
You can be reasonably sure that one of the guys Dixie picks on in the audience will be nicknamed Hotdog and one of the couples will be dubbed Captain and Tenille. The raunchiness of the guy's name surfaces immediately, but until she referenced "Muskrat Love," I couldn't fathom what Dixie was going for with the pop duo. The couples' competition this time around was a little more bizarre than my misadventures with a stack of collapsible FlatOut® containers. Julie Andrews is involved in a way I dare not divulge — and I'm not sure whether or not the losing husband looked stupider than I did.
It was close.
While she doesn't have a chalkboard — and certainly not a whiteboard (this is Alabama!) — Dixie has a little spiral notebook that contains her choicest words to live by. Holding a pen in her hand as she flips the pages, her red wig pouffed high, Dixie occasionally does put you in mind of a waitress taking your order at some cheap dive.
- (Photo by John Moore)
Some of Dixie's words of wisdom were learned at the knee of her dear mother, and others come from the inspiration granted to her on half-remembered nights spent with a bottle of Jack Daniels. More than a few simulated sips of that beverage are taken during the 90 minutes we're at her honky-tonk. Aphorisms gleaned from Dixie's mom hardly sound less drunken, fracturing familiar sayings. "When a tree falls in a forest..." isn't going anywhere you've known before.
Here and there, something might just strike home and resonate. Lifting her spiral notebook, Dixie exhorts us not to let the story of our lives become the sort of book that gets tossed into the clearance bin. Useful.
Eventually, we do reach Dixie's counsel on riding a mechanical bull. Our hostess finally tears down the crime scene tape and climbs aboard. Okay, so it still doesn't work, but we shouldn't fault set designer Lisa Orzolek that the beast doesn't swivel and buck. Meeting safety standards would probably mean affixing the fearsome contraption to a steel girder capable of holding up the Empire State Building.
Verbally, Dixie tries her best to tie this raucous, rambling, crowd-pleasing evening together and manages fairly well. But it's the visual tableau that truly provides satisfying closure: Dixie, the bull, the booze, and her beloved Tupperware united at last.