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Swim together and stay close for the rest of your lives. This is the theme of The Dixie Swim Club by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, an ode to lifelong friendship in the vein of Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling and Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. And the many comic one-liners through the script give a nod to television’s Golden Girls (not surprisingly, as Wooten was one of the screenwriters for the show).

In The Dixie Swim Club, five Southern U.S. women, members of the same college swimming team, meet each year at the same beach cottage in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Through their annual two-week vacation each August, they recharge their friendship and support each other through assorted life crises.

Team captain, then and in the four stages of life presented in the four scenes, is Sheree, athlete, organizer and health-food addict. The remaining members of the team represent different aspects of career paths, personal lives and fortunes. Dinah is single, a successful lawyer, a workaholic and borderline alcoholic. The vain and self-absorbed Lexie keeps cosmetic surgeons and divorce lawyers in business. Jeri, a former nun, turns to motherhood and marriage later in life, and Vernadette is the personification of staying cheerful despite having to cope with the string of disasters life throws at her.

Under the direction of Jo-Ann McCabe, the swim team and their alter egos deliver a show with heart and humour. Despite the sit-com and somewhat repetitive nature of the light script, the changing cast delivers distinct and recognizable personalities at four ages and stages. The funny moments are very funny and the occasional touching segments work equally well.

A standout among the ensemble — in part because she has the lion’s share of the most amusing lines and in part because of her accurate timing — is Lisa Moore as Vernadette, the hard-luck woman with a couch-potato husband and two deadbeat kids. (Would she opt for motherhood again? one of the others asks. Yes, provided she has different children, she answers immediately.)

Andrée Benson, as Dinah, delivers a convincing presentation of a smart professional, a fine contrast to Bobby Robert’s man-hungry Southern belle, Lucille Lacelle’s organizing athlete, Sheree, and Jenn McMillan’s sweet peacemaker, Jeri. Ellen Clare O’Gallagher, Micheline Mathon, Kitty Galt and Sandy Wynne complete the ensemble as the 77-year-old versions of the four surviving team members. McCabe is to be complimented on her careful selection of four actresses who look similar enough and maintain a similar style of characterization to be entirely believable as the older versions of their younger counterparts.

Altogether, the Phoenix Players’ production of The Dixie Swim Club is theatrical comfort food that keeps audiences smiling warmly well after the final curtain.

The Dixie Swim Club continues at the Gladstone Theatre to November 15.

The Dixie Swim Club

By Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten

Phoenix Players

Director and set designer: Jo-Ann McCabe

Sound: David Speck

Lighting: Anthony Neary

Costumes: Zhanna Parashchuk

 

Cast:

Sheree………………………………………………Lucille Lacelle

Lexie……………………………………………….Bobby Robert

Dinah………………………………………………Andrée Benson

Vernadette…………………………………………Lisa Moore

Jeri Neal……………………………………………Jenn McMillan

Mrs. Butler…………………………………………Ellen Clare O’Gallagher

Mrs. Sims………………………………………… Micheline Mathon

Mrs. Richards………………………………………Kitty Galt

Mrs. Hollinger……………………………………..Sandy Wynne