Review: Laughing All The Way

Dec. 17, 2018 | By Bruce R. Feldman

"Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce," CAP UCLA, Dec. 14-15, 2018

"Dixie’s Tupperware Party," Kirk Douglas Theater, Culver City, Nov. 29-Dec. 30, 2018

"Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce": The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Survival

To call Taylor Mac’s holiday concert unconventional would be a colossal understatement.

The irreverent presentation – happening, extravaganza, or folly might be a better words for it – was part riotous drag show with outlandish costumes and sets, part determined performance art, part heartfelt social manifesto.

Taylor Mac decked out for the holidays

To demonstrate that he had little patience for the usual Christmas show schmaltz, Mac made his entrance by stepping out of a smoking witch’s cauldron before delivering a forthright opening monologue that took bitchy aim at phony holiday sentimentality, religious piety, the commercialization of the season, and Donald Trump.

He introduced other elements that reinforced his unapologetic queer aesthetic and unrepentant apostasy: a nude boylesque-dancing baby Jesus (James Tigger! Ferguson) and an anti-Santa of sorts, an “obese transvestite in tights” (as the program notes stated) played by Glenn Marla.

Mac also shared revealing, painful stories about growing up in his dysfunctional family.

The Bing Crosby Christmas Special this wasn’t. It was just the opposite: Mac didn’t perform any of the expected holiday pop standards. There was no Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, or Jingle Bells.

Instead he offered his own nonconformist takes on Carol of the Bells, Little Drummer Boy, and other traditional seasonal tunes, as well as a few outliers like – and don't tell Santa! – The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen started out earnestly then halfway through morphed into a rousing anthem set to what he called a wiccan Bollywood beat. At one point he brought the audience to its feet with a sing-along version of O Holy Night.

A resplendent Taylor Mac; set and costume designer Machine Dazzle as a Christmas tree

Music director and pianist Matthew Dean Marsh fronted a sharp eight-piece band that soulfully backed Mac’s stirring vocals but could rock and roll when required. An "elder choir" comprised of seniors joined Mac on a few selections.

Mac’s crazy outfits and towering Medusa headdresses were as stunning as they were bizarre, owing as much to Carmen Miranda as they did to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The costumes, the shimmering green and red tinsel backdrop, and the giant cauldron, were the work of his longtime designer, Machine Dazzle.

Dazzle appeared in the show, too, as a walking, talking Christmas tree. Throughout the night, Mac brought other members of his production team on stage to do various bits of comedy shtick. These were pointed reminders of the drag artist’s overriding message of inclusion and acceptance.

By the end of the night, it was clear that Mac had achieved something quite rare for any entertainer or artist: He gave a highly personal performance that managed to be joyful and melancholic, spirited and sincere, and supremely enjoyable all at the same time.

Bravo!

Dixie’s Tupperware Party: Leftovers, Again?

If you’re looking for something merry and light to ring in the holiday season, you could do worse than spend 90 minutes with Dixie Longate.

Imagine that you and a few hundred of your friends are at a Tupperware party hosted by this fast-talking, foul-mouthed super saleswoman. She’s got flaming red curls, a passion for keeping food fresh, and – it shouldn’t be a total loss – a message of female empowerment.

If that sounds funny to you, you’ll love Dixie’s Tupperware Party. If it doesn’t, you’ll most likely still find this one-man show at least mildly amusing.

Did I say one-man show? Yes, Dixie’s played by a man in drag – a mystery man, apparently, as there’s no mention of his real name in the program.

Does it make any difference? Not really. Dixie’s a hoot in her wedgies and her cherry print apron. And if you find your attention straying, you can always head to the lobby and buy a Jel-Ring Mold or Chip ‘N Dip Set. Seriously, you can.

Happy holidays to one and all!

"Dixie's Tupperware Party," Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City, (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org/

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