Halfway through the musical sex comedy Whiskey Dixie and the Big Wet Country, there's a fascinating moment that's neither musical nor comedic. Country singer Whiskey (Amanda Richards) is on the verge of having sex with bar owner Dick (John Bruner) when she discovers he has herpes—and he wasn't planning to tell her.
Whiskey isn't worried about getting infected—she has herpes, too. Yet she's enraged both by Dick's lie by omission and his lame excuses for it, and her fury transforms a formerly goofy scene into a disquieting meditation on gaslighting and consent.
The evolution of that moment mirrors the transformation of the play itself. Whiskey Dixie initially seems little more than a string of gleefully crude jokes. But thanks to a series of brash narrative left turns, the show becomes an excitingly volatile chronicle of the characters' sex lives.
At the center of this narrative is Whiskey, who's searching for her musical big break and a satisfactory sexual partner. Both goals seem imperiled when she loses her driver's license after a cop catches her masturbating behind the wheel, using a microphone for a dildo.
Yet the incident makes Whiskey an internet celebrity. That raises the question: Will she capitalize on her own humiliation if it means jump-starting her career?
If you see Whiskey Dixie to discover the answer, you're going for the wrong reason. Whiskey may be the heroine of the play—which was written by Richards and directed by Serah Pope—but it's an ensemble saga at heart.
Most of the story is confined to Dick's bar, the Dixie Tavern. The grungy hangout plastered with ads for Camel cigarettes and Miller High Life is where a group of friends discuss everything from premature ejaculation to the art of properly stimulating the clitoris.
A few too many of these scenes demand that we be delighted by the rather obvious revelation that, yes, sex is funny. But Richards' songs—which have titles like "Save a Cow, Eat a Cowgirl" and "Buttfuck This Night"—are consistently uproarious, and the play is packed with spectacular sight gags, the most memorable of which happens during a sex scene involving Whiskey, Dick and a well-used cowboy hat.
Whiskey Dixie also has disarming emotional heft. Dick may seem a manipulative jerk, but one of the play's highlights features him sitting alone in a chair singing "Gets Me High," a ballad of loneliness and yearning that poignantly reveals a desire for genuine emotional connection.
That somber scene sets the stage for a series of second-act twists, which jerk the narrative away from Whiskey's career and into the midst of a disarmingly bizarre chain of events involving sexual assault and a gun. Some might find Whiskey Dixie's metamorphosis disorienting. Yet despite occasionally sacrificing narrative coherence, the play achieves something extraordinary—it becomes a worthy work of post-#MeToo theater that celebrates sexual pleasure while attacking white male privilege in potent and unexpected ways.
The play's comedic tone may seemingly give you permission to chuckle when Dick sings an appalling male anthem titled "Grab Life by the Pussy," but we also see him pay a serious price for his offensive words a few scenes later.
Whiskey Dixie isn't an unqualified triumph. But it is funny, radical and powerful. Like Whiskey, it seizes the wheel and the microphone heedlessly, declaring that if you get busted, that's the price you pay for audacity and truth.
SEE IT: Whiskey Dixie and the Big Wet Country is at Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., imagotheatre.com. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, through Oct. 13. $30, VIP table $500.