Review: Finding the heart in Sister Dottie's malapropisms
She's baaack! The irrepressible Dottie Dixon, flamboyantly embodied by the equally irrepressible Charles Lynn Frost, is making a return appearance to Utah stages at Salt Lake Acting Company. Spanish "Fark's" most infamous mother of a gay son and "discommunicated" member of the Mormon Church is back with the latest installment of her life and adventures, "DottieThe Sister Lives On."
If you're already a Dottie fan, this sequel is bound to please you. And if you're a newcomer to Dottie's charms, she will instantly make you feel at home because this play, cowritten by Frost and Christopher Wixom, has more range and depth than its predecessor.
The first act charts similar territory to the earlier "The Passion of Sister Dottie M. Dixon." With the help of "audiovisualization" slides and videos, Dottie reacquaints us with Spanish Fark Spanish; introduces us to her home teachers, Barbara and Glendina, who have come to "guilt the lily;" fixes saltwater-infused chicken enchiladas for son Donnie's new "Hispanish" boyfriend, Joaquin; and visits the Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula with BFF Dartsey FoxMorland in their "personal episode of 'Lost,' " armed with a can of Aqua Net and a machete. When the two hear threatening noises, they "run away faster than Mitt Romney at a Southern Baptist barbecue."
But in Act II, after Donnie is hospitalized to fight meth addiction and husband Don suffers a heart attack, "Dottie" explores more fertile ground. A highlight is Dottie's trip to deliver an anti-bullying bill to the "biggest bullies in the state" at the Utah Legislature, where she confronts Gayle Ruzicka, "the Madame Defarge of Alpine, Utah," in "the nest of the Eagle Forum." Since Dottie is not so good at "oralating," she borrows the "friends, Romans, countrymen" speech from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" as her model and then assaults Ruzicka with the ultimate insult: "You are as common as Spam."
"Dottie" teems with the usual malapropisms: she receives a "standing ovulation" and has a yard "full of homo gnomes," and Donnie and Joaquin get married and find a "surrogoat" mother to experience "inseminalization" and produce a "biracist" grandbaby.
But what really makes "Dottie" work is Frost's larger-than-life, love-and-laughter-filled portrayal. This man literally could sell you snake oil. From the minute he comes onstage, making sure audience members are comfortable and offering them treats, to his impeccable timing as he shares both timely and tender moments, Frost is in total command of his character and the audience's reaction to her.
Kent Frogley provides musical accompaniment and orchestrates emotional moments as he reprises the role of the shy, self-conscious Dartsey. Robin Wilks-Dunn's confident direction moves Frost smoothly around Keven Myhre's multilevel set, whose ramps and stairs resemble a playground jungle gym. James Craig's responsive lighting guides us in and out of episodes in Dottie's life, and Mikal Troy Klee's rich sound design tunes us into the outside world. Jeannie Kronenberg-Uppstrom's costumes are stylishly over-the-top.
Frost moves this new version of "Dottie" to a new level by inviting us to share a range of more heartfelt moments. Audiences will come away with a strong sense of the play's underlying message: "That's our job: Making room for more love."
Review: 'Dottie The Sister Lives On!'
This hilarious and heartwarming production gives Dottie creator Charles Lynn Frost an opportunity to expand and deepen the dimensions of his character's world.
When • Reviewed Thursday, Feb. 16; continues Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6 p.m. through March 6
Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $23-$41 (discounts for students, theatergoers under 30, and groups); 363-SLAC or saltlakeactingcompany.org
Running time • Two hours, including an intermission
Note • The show contains adult language and situations