Dixie's Tupperware Party. Dixie is a booze- and sex-addicted, trash-talking, child-neglecting ex-con from Alabama who holds Tupperware parties in her trailer, and she's invited you to this one. Dixie's Tupperware Party, at the Galleria, really is a Tupperware party — you get a name tag and raffle number when you come in, and there are pens and catalogues on all the tables. Dixie, your hostess, greets you in high white heels and a crotch-skimming skirt, earrings swinging, red hair piled high. Collapsible bowls, punch and party setups, plastic jugs and ribbed mugs (uh-huh) gleam in shades of lime, blue, orange and purple on a table behind her; by the time she's through, you won't be able to look at a plastic storage container without giggling. Just the words "collapsible bowl" will set you off. Dixie is also Kris Andersson, an actor who realized he could make an actual living selling Tupperware and began hosting parties. As he worked, the character of Dixie developed. Andersson brought his show to New York's Fringe Festival in 2004, and it caught fire from there. This production is seriously dirty, and it's also one terrific evening. Dixie is a great character: She doesn't give an inch, but she's as appealing as she is wicked. And Andersson not only loves Dixie, but he loves Tupperware, too — and he's not being snarky about it. So no matter how much Dixie screws up her spiel or how many lewd jokes she makes about the uses to which you can put "the best plastic crap on the planet," there's a reverential quality to the way she fondles the goods that makes you actually want to buy them. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through January 2, Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org.
Drag Machine. The goal of Off-Center @ The Jones is to work with local talent, explore exciting new forms and create lively and informal theater, and Drag Machine is as much a party and celebration as it is a production. Shirley Delta Blow, aka actor Stuart Sanks, takes you on a trip through the decades of the twentieth century by twiddling with various fluffy objects and making vroom-vroom sounds while "If I Could Turn Back Time" plays. She is assisted by two adorable flight attendants: pretty little Ruby Bouche and lithe, smooth-skinned Go Go. Audience participation here isn't one of those get-picked-on-and-embarrassed-by-a-performer things; for those enticed onto the stage, it's more like making a kindly new friend who'll guide you through games like "Are You Smarter Than a Drag Queen?" and "Who Dat in Drag?" while more new friends in the audience help by shouting out answers when you find yourself stumped. Decade by decade, famous faces flash past on two screens — everyone from Grace Jones to Martin Luther King Jr. to Al Capone — accompanied by a few facts about each era. But amid the laughter and camp, there are some genuine tributes as Delta Blow applauds the heroes of the gay-rights movement and stresses the participation of drag queens within it. She tells us about the first stirrings of that movement with the formation of the Mattachine Society in the 1950s; there are photographs from the 1969 Stonewall riot in New York's Greenwich Village, after the police went there for a routine crackdown and were stunned when the patrons decided to fight back. Blow also describes the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that began in 1979 and still works to help and educate gay youth and raise money to combat AIDS. After a moving homage to the many young gay people who have taken their own lives, the show ends with some hopeful, rainbow-colored imagery for the future. And, really, how can it not be a good party when you learn your own drag-queen name, get to eat cotton candy, and end up adding the shimmer of your glow stick to all the others waving gently in the dark? Presented by Off-Center @ The Jones through November 16, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denveroffcenter.org. Reviewed November 8.
Sweet Tooth. The opening scene is mesmerizing: a bare stage, a woman in a fur coat standing in front of a white sheet and singing "It's cold." A hand appears from behind the sheet offering a glass, sprinkling water on the woman, and then the sheet is removed to reveal a rose-colored living room filled with various strange portraits of this same woman. We discover she isn't really cold. She's George, a wealthy eccentric who has retreated from the world to create a hermetically enclosed, aesthetically perfect little universe for herself, one in which artifice is elevated above nature and a simulated event is superior to the event itself. With the help of two devoted followers, Hortense the maid and the artist George calls Mister, she invents fake interludes to appreciate. Pastry being about as artificial as cooking gets, the three eat a lot of desserts, and the result is predictable. George gets a toothache, and she has to deal with a very real, pressing and painful reality. A dentist is called in — a practical, low-key guy called Dr. Manette. Will he break through the enameled craziness with his forceps and angled mirror, or move deeper and deeper into the rosy-tinted trap, following a trail of poisoned sweets? There's a lot of wit and ingenuity here, and also guts: When the Buntport actors come up with an original concept, they tend to ride it through to the bitter end, not shying away from the craziest implications, exploring every possible crevice — which makes Sweet Tooth as intellectually stimulating as it is lively and funny. The production is a collaboration with musician Adam Stone, and he provides a series of strange, passionate and funny songs on such topics as abscessed teeth and Pear William cake. Presented by Buntport Theater through November 17, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed November 1.
Time Stands Still. For all but a small sliver of society in the United States, wars are only a distant rumbling. But for those who have experienced the conflicts — soldiers, journalists, refugees — they are devastating. The images of war engrave themselves indelibly on the brain and can rip apart the fabric of an entire life. This truth lies at the heart of Donald Margulies's searching and unsettling play Time Stands Still. The primary protagonists are two journalists who have covered some of the world's hottest war zones. Sarah, a photographer wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, has returned to the U.S. almost literally in pieces, both physical and emotional. Her long-term lover, James, is at their apartment to welcome her. A reporter, he left Iraq while Sarah was still in the hospital in Germany because of a breakdown of his own, and he is determined to bring her back to health. But Sarah is not an easy patient. Richard, her photo editor, arrives, accompanied by his much younger girlfriend, Mandy, and Sarah can barely mask her contempt. When the two women discuss the photographs on Sarah's laptop, Mandy begins to weep over a shot of a mother with her horribly burned baby. She has touched on a profound question: Both Sarah and James sometimes wonder whether recording war scenes does any good or whether it's a kind of voyeurism, a commodification of human pain. But the play is not didactic. It's smart, multi-layered, absorbing and wryly funny, and the issues it raises are explored through the lives of four very real and interesting people. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through December 15, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed November 8.