She’s back, bless her heart.
Dixie Longate, that Southern belle with the colorful vocabulary, that roadside prophet with the moonshine wisdom, that decadent diva who won’t let anyone have a bad time or steal her whiskey drink. You might remember Dixie from her last visit to Shea’s Smith Theatre, when her Tupperware party touched down and saved all our souls. She has a way of doing that.
Dixie is the creation of writer, star and real-life Tupperware salesman Kris Andersson, whose exuberant sales pitches can — and should — be found on YouTube. Watch him explain their revolutionary can opener, breathing modern relevancy into an archaic brand and often-mocked career path. Then buy a ticket to his show, and see how he’s grown his own brand, one eyelash at a time. As Dixie will tell you, borrowing humbly from Country’s Queen Bey — Miss Dolly Parton — it takes a lot of cheap makeup to look this good.
In her new show, “Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull and 16 Other Things I Learned While I Was Drinking Last Thursday” — and pause for breath — Dixie steps away from the plastic serving bowls and settles in with a plastic sipping cup. In a dingy Mobile, Alabama bar, outfitted with Christmas lights, permanently strewn about road signs and taxidermy deer busts, dusty photo frames and shelves of brown liquor, Dixie invites us to grab a seat and stay a while. There’s a storm brewing, and we’d all be better off together.
Much like her “Tupperware Party,” fun is the sole agenda. You see, Dixie’s seen it all, and she’s had them all. Romance and heartache, success and failure, whiskey and more whiskey; she knows how life works. Sure, she knows what you’re thinking, and she doesn’t give a squirrel’s behind. We’re all the same in the end.
With Dixie, Andersson is a bona fide theater artist. He birthed her in 2004, when “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” played a showcase at the New York International Fringe Festival. An off-Broadway engagement, Drama Desk Award nomination, and international tour have only cemented her as one of the most popular touring acts. There are now five titles in the Dixie franchise.
This isn’t just a drag show with a cash bar; it’s a complete character study, rhinestone-studded with moments both low- and highbrow. “The fiercest Dixie since Carter,” I wrote in 2010, when she last played here. Six years later, and she’s still gripping her crown.
In that show, Dixie sold us on the merits of domesticity: the microwavable shortcuts to making your own money and spending it as you wish. This time, she expands on the very feminism that launched (and was, in part, launched by) the Tupperware empire. Dixie is independent, has strong (albeit drunk) friends, and does whatever she pleases.
That her stories come with a lidded cup of vodka punched with a reusable straw is mere decoration; Dixie can survive any mess thrown at her, and so can you. Her 16 rules break the philosophy down in no uncertain terms: grab life by the horns, grip hard, lean back and find your balance. Who knew mechanical bulls were so fruitful.
The single-act show is an uproarious time, filled to the brim with mile-a-minute jokes and audience-reliant gags. You likely won’t catch every bit, but hold on tight, the next bus is coming. It eventually tempers to a hush, a fireside chat next to a whirring jukebox. While Andersson could easily trim some fat from this sentimental coda, it didn’t stop me from leaning in to listen harder.
Universal truth never sounded so new. She may speak incorrectly, slurring words like a drippy auctioneer. She’s been married and widowed three times, without explanation. Her hair is as tall as Texas and her makeup is caked on more than a bakery window. And if it still matters in 2016 — and I think it does — she’s a man in a dress, riling up audiences as diverse and unlikely as your average church crowd. But for all her roundabout wisdom and questionable stories, she’s just like you and me. It’s all in the grip.
3.5 stars (out of 4)
What: “Dixie’s Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull”
Where: Shea’s Smith Theatre, 660 Main St.
When: 7:30 p.m. March 2 and 3; 8 p.m. March 4; 4 and 8 p.m. March 5; and 2 and 6 p.m. March 6
Tickets: $30 and $35
Info: sheas.org, (800) 745-3000