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Dixie's Tupperware Party

Theatre Reviews by Matthew Murray

Kris Andersson
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

It's hard to laugh at $170,000, unless Dixie Longate is involved. That's the amount this Alabama mother of three made in one year selling Tupperware, and now that her raucous retail show has arrived at Ars Nova, under the descriptive title Dixie's Tupperware Party, perhaps the sky really is the limit. If Dixie has her say - and this show ensures she does, time and time again - that's only the beginning.

You can even actually buy Tupperware from Dixie and her "Tupperfairies" following the show, if you like; included free with your ticket is a Summer 2007 catalog in which you're encouraged to circle favorite items from those Dixie presents, just so you're not left without something crucial for your household well-being. But while there is certainly someone somewhere who needs a dish made out of the material used for fashioning space shuttle windows or hemispheric containers for lemons or onion halves, Dixie is more than enough show by herself.

Blending 1950s housewife chic with contemporary audacity, Dixie (aka Kris Andersson) is an adroit and driven trailer-trash saleswoman with an unshakable knack for connecting - and interacting - with her audience. Don't underestimate her ability to size up what you need in the kitchen or even the bedroom (her advised use for a flat colander should not be described here), and then push it for all its worth. Even her young children - one in need of a leg operation, the other pregnant - are fodder for her pitches; no one, in her life or yours, is safe. After all, Brownie Wise, the Tupperware queen who popularized the party concept, is watching from a conspicuously placed portrait to offer her inspirational advice.

Even with a few such otherworldly touches, Dixie's Tupperware Party is, unlike the season's other Tupperware comedy Sealed for Freshness, not much of a piece of message theatre. Don't strain yourself trying to discern much commentary on the woman's place in the working world, or a post-modernist deconstruction of the meaning of femininity in a culture where it's declined in popularity - this is, simply, a Tupperware party. Make no mistake, it's an endlessly amusing 80 minutes, a shining example of how to safely stretch a single joke to evening's length. But you're unlikely to leave with much more than fond memories, and perhaps a Pick-A-Deli pickle holder.

At least what little "there" is there is wittily written, by Andersson and Elizabeth Meriwether (whose Heddatron last year was a more radical and probing look at changing sexual mores), and directed with full-out infomercial flair by Alex Timbers. Legitimate capitulations to theatre are even made by Cameron Anderson's mobile-homey set, Camille Assaf's Sears catalog-scraping costume for Dixie, and especially Jake Pinholster's video, which is nearly as sassy and bitchy as Dixie herself.

Andersson makes for a fine hostess, with impeccably honed improvisation skills and an ingratiating manner that makes you feel like an old friend even if you've never met Dixie before. He sees to it that she maintains a remarkably unspoiled party atmosphere from beginning to end, so toeing the line between open-hearted and offensive that half the fun of the show is waiting to see Dixie slip up. That never happens, though the act does become somewhat robotic by evening's end; this show, which unsurprisingly originated at the 2004 Fringe Festival, can only find so much to say about Tupperware.

And if you don't possess an inherited or acquired predisposition to the ubiquitous plastic storage system, Dixie's charms may elude you regardless. That's not, it must be stated, Andersson's fault: How many Rectangular Cake Takers do you need in your life, even if they double as Jell-o Shot Caddies? Not every item is so far-flung, though: Dixie's most intriguing offering is a can opener that leaves no sharp edges - a fitting symbol for a show that entertains without cutting at all deeply.

Dixie's Tupperware Party
Through June 17
Ars Nova Theater, 511 West 54th Street
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes with no intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix

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