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The Dixie Swim Club

a Comedy
by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten

COMPANY : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4750

SHOWING : July 09, 2015 - July 26, 2015



Five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team, set aside a long weekend every August to recharge those relationships. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. The play is a hilarious and touching comedy about friendships that last forever.

Director David Thomas
Vernadette Simms Aretta Baumgartner
Jeri Neal McFeeley Kara Cantrell
Sheree Hollinger Suzanne Roush
Dinah Grayson Dina Shadwell
Lexie Richards Karen Whitaker
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Forget the Sharks; Go Swimmin’!
by playgoer
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Mash together Topher Payne’s "Beached Wails" with Sean Grennan’s "Making God Laugh" on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and you’ll end up with something like "The Dixie Swim Club." Those aren’t the influences of this play by a trio of playwrights, of course; there are plenty of plays reuniting the same set of characters over the years. This one throws tons of belly laughs into the mixture, with a bit of sweet tenderness acting as a chaser. The play itself is entertaining, and when you have a wonderfully matched set of actresses playing all the parts, it becomes a sheer delight.

Michael Hidalgo’s set screams 1980’s beach house, but in a good way. The tiled floor is elegant, and the neutral furniture and wallpaper are casual, but not trendy. A lovely sea-view mural (painted by Nancy Knight) appears as the background through a triple window, which is topped by a 1980’s valance for the first two scenes. For the second act, shades are drawn and the valance is removed. Other little touches distinguish each of the four scenes, which take place at least five years apart. Mr. Hidalgo’s sound and lighting design aren’t given much of a workout in this script, but work beautifully with the set and the direction to make the play spark to life.

Director David Thomas has given his five actresses room to develop their characters, then has molded the action to highlight their actions and character choices. It all flows seamlessly.

Each character has her quirks. Vernadette (Aretta Baumgartner) always shows up with a disability of some sort and an urgent need to pee. Sheree (Suzanne Roush) relishes and reprises her role as swim captain, trying to coordinate all activities. Dinah (Dina Shadwell) drinks. Jeri Neal (Kara Cantrell) takes a journey from nunhood to single motherhood. Lexie (Karen Whitaker) marries and divorces repeatedly, always finding a new piece of man candy when the old piece starts to lose its flavor. These character traits don’t come across as stale when they’re repeated in each new scene; they maintain consistency and quickly give the audience the feeling that they have known these women for a long time.

Aided by Jeanne Fore’s costumes, a nice collection of props, and a wonderful collection of wigs, the women age believably from 44 to 77 over the course of the show. One of the delights is seeing how each actress relates physically to age or, in Vernadette’s case, to various injuries. They all show age a little differently, so this is clearly NOT a case of them getting a one-size-fits-all note from the director.

Aside from a few line bobbles on opening weekend, I encountered nothing in the production that could be construed as a negative. The script, scenic elements, and performances are all of exceptional quality in terms of entertainment value. There’s no one I can point to as a standout; when all the people onstage and off are working at the peak of their abilities, the whole thing combines into one overflowing bowl of enjoyment in which no one element predominates. To sum it all up in one word: "terrific!"


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