A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas

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A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas, Free Associates, at the Ivanhoe Theater. Over the last seven years the Free Associates have perfected their long-form, improvised Tennessee Williams spoof, bringing a magnifying glass to the playwright's themes and character types. Although little has changed in the production's format since the last time I saw it (three years ago), A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas continues to prove itself the best play Tennessee Williams never wrote.

On the night I attended, the crack troupe continually out-Williamsed Williams. Using audience suggestions for "a deep, dark secret" (a character fishes his Christmas gifts from the trash) and "a dysfunctional wish" (another character longs for big-city glamour as a Rockette), the five ensemble members brought a heaping helping of holiday angst to the tiny hamlet of Drinking Mistletoe, Kentucky. Over the course of a single act, the play's small family fell prey to Blanche DuBois (as a Salvation Army bell ringer), a bumbling junk collector, a pair of barking dogs, and of course the twin pillars of the Williams oeuvre, rampant alcoholism and repressed homosexuality.

Reportedly this is your final chance to see A Dysfunctional Dixie Christmas before the troupe shelves the show in favor of other projects. Too bad. A Free Associates season without a Tennessee Williams spoof is like Christmas without rum-laden eggnog and last year's fruitcake: you can make do, but it just isn't the same. --Nick Green

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