You hear it all the time: The thing that people most fear isn’t death. It’s public speaking.
That may be true for most people, but if it applies to Dixie Lee Mills, the center of the one-woman show Adolescence 2.0, it certainly doesn’t show.
Adolescence 2.0 is a comedic romp through the (mostly sexual) awakening of a southern gal who married the wrong man at a young age in the Deep South. When he and she split ties twenty years later, Dixie found joy in shaving, casual sex, guilt-free masturbation, some liberating weight-loss, and, more dubiously, dating.
Tales from her adventures in all of the above (and more) are woven into 60 minutes of material that is part stand-up and part story telling.
Climbing up on stage is always an act of bravery. And it’s one thing to get up on stage and play someone else’s character in a play, but it’s a whole other thing to play yourself while sharing intimate stories and trying to make a skeptical audience laugh.
Dixie Lee Mills gets big points for stepping mirthfully into that buzz-saw, chin first.
Unfortunately, Adolescence 2.0 still needs quite a bit of workshopping before it’s ready for prime time. First and foremost, the show needs a firmer identity. Is it actually a standup routine, or is it an act of story-telling?
If it’s standup, then the jokes are going to need a little more punch. Oftentimes, an observation in Adolescence 2.0 is left to stand on its own in a way that lends itself neither to big laughs nor a better understanding of what the author is trying to say.
For example, in the course of talking about her dating experiences, Dixie tells the audience that online dating platforms should include a profile question about whether or not someone owns a car, because “you’d be surprised how many middle-aged men don’t have a car.”
Written and performed by Dixie Lee Mills
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It’s a humorous observation (unless you’re a middle-aged guy who doesn’t own a car, I guess), but it isn’t a joke in and of itself. If Adolescence 2.0 is truly standup, this observation needs a punchline – for example, “if a guy tells me he doesn’t have a car, I tell him…,” something. You get the point.
The fact that these jokes need a sharper point is driven home most by the oft-repeated “know what I mean?” or “know what I’m saying?”, which too often serve as punctuation to fill the gap where a punchline might otherwise live.
On the other hand, if what Adolescence 2.0 is reaching for is rich story-telling, then let’s have it! Was there a time when our hero and her date walked three miles in the hot sun to get to dinner? Did her date’s mother drop him off at the movie theater?
If there isn’t something like this to lean on, then perhaps this observation about middle-aged guys and their lack of wheels needs to be cut out altogether, or at the very least not hung out like a wide net trying to catch a laugh.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t some good material in Adolescent 2.0’s well. Dixie’s life as a 200 pound Pilates instructor, her struggle to find a good sex-shop in a small southern town, and the time she got off with Whoopi Goldberg (kinda… I won’t spoil it), are all asking for some exploration.
And Dixie isn’t shy about giving it right to you. She’s fearless, jumping right into some of the richest material straight out of the gate with a story of the OBGYN who paused upon seeing Dixie, only to leave to find “the right-sized speculum.” Yikes.
The fact that the show is wanting for some additional workshopping is disappointing most because Dixie herself is so damn likeable. Even if you don’t leave aching from laughter, you’ll leave wanting to have dinner with her. This is someone who can drive a conversation that’s anything but boring.
Except that we aren’t sitting down for dinner. It’s a show, and the only tool the audience has to make the evening a success is either to laugh politely or sit there grinning, hoping it all comes full circle.
Overall, Dixie brings a great energy to the production, and is 100 percent committed to her material and the occasional onstage gag, including some clever lighting that I won’t spoil here, either.
She also surprises the audience occasionally with some fantastic witticisms, like the fact that she gained so much weight “to distance herself from her husband.”
Even when the jokes do hit home, however, the small and sunbaked Capitol Fringe audience deserves a bit of the blame for not doing their part by showing up to laugh.
For her part, Dixie smiles through the hits as well as the flops. Even a missing, critical prop to close the show didn’t throw her off her act when I saw it. The result is a show with a lot of heart behind it.
Adolescence 2.0 has the marks of a courageous performer with a deep well of material to plumb. Our hero, however, should enlist the help of an objective comic, director, or story-teller to help bring this one all the way home.