“The Dixie Swim Club” – Like the Golden Girls, But Live on Stage
Read More: Chester, Georgia Rogers Farmer, Jacqueline Jones, Jennifer Frank, Jody Strickler, Joy Williams, Nightlife, rva theater, Swift Creek Mill, Swift Creek Mill Theatre, The Dixie Swim Club, Theater REview
Capping off Swift Creek Mill’s 2013-2014 season is “The Dixie Swim Club” Directed by The Mill’s in-house director, Tom Width, and written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who are collectively known as Jones Hope Wooten.
The play centers around five girlfriends who met while competing on their college swim team.
Every year since college, the former teammates get together for a girls-only weekend down in the Outer Banks. When the audience joins them on their trip in Act One it has been 22 years since their college graduation.
There’s Sheree, played by Joy Williams, a type-A health nut who enjoys meticulously planning the group’s daily activities and terrorizing them with her über healthy snacks, Dinah, played by Jody Strickler, a hardworking lawyer with a penchant for vodka martinis, Lexie, played by Georgia Rogers Farmer, an aging beauty who refuses to accept it, Jeri Neal, played by Jacqueline Jones, a former nun who left the church. And finally Vernadette, played by Jennifer Frank, a clownish goofball with a good for nothing husband, a delinquent son and a daughter who has disappeared and supposedly joined a cult.
Featuring a well-balanced cast and a very witty script, “The Dixie Swim Club” truly captures the essence of Southern women and deep life-long friendships; It is no surprise that Jamie Wooten was once a writer on the much beloved sitcom, The Golden Girls.
Spanning 33 years in two acts, the plot features several divorces, big blowout fights, an unexpected pregnancy, a hurricane and an impassioned speech about biscuits that is absolutely hilarious.
It is obvious the cast had a great time with this play. Williams is perfectly over-the-top as Sheree. I always enjoy watching Williams on stage and the range of emotions she experiences in this story are very authentically presented. Strickler is fantastic as the no-nonsense lawyer, Dinah, who is the core of the friend group. She is a confidante for many of them and Strickler plays the character with a strong “mother hen” vibe.
Rogers Farmer is perfectly cast as Lexie and she does what she does best, playing “the bombshell.” At times the character of Lexie is little too reminiscent of Blanche Dubois, but I wasn’t bothered as Rogers Farmer seems to use the similarities between the two characters as inspiration, more than imitation. While many of the roles I have seen Rogers Farmer play are fairly similar, this performance definitely stands out. She is sexy and girly, but extremely funny, sarcastic and caring at the same time.
Jones is charming as the former nun Jeri Neal, portraying her character as naïve and almost childlike. Frank gives an excellent performance as Vernadette, who’s character genuinely takes all the drama and struggles in her life in stride.
This may be my favorite set at The Mill. Width perfectly transforms the stage into the living room of a quaint beach house in North Carolina. My family and I used to visit the Outer Banks every year and seeing this beautiful set brought up so many great memories. Maura Lynch Cravey’s costumes are attractive and character appropriate.
The team of Jones Hope Wooten has created complex characters that never take themselves too seriously. Width definitely knows how to produce a comedy and the strong script allows the cast to really shine. There were several times when I felt like I was watching a sitcom as the audience’s roars of laughter would often cause the actresses to pause and wait for the chuckles to dissipate.
“The Dixie Swim Club” is playing at Swift Creek Mill through August 2nd.
Visit www.swiftcreekmill.com for tickets and show times.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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