Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wetumpka Depot: "The Dixie Swim Club"

Take five Southern women who were members of their college's swim team; meet them some 22 years after graduation at an annual reunion at a beach cottage in North Carolina; watch their relationships shift and grow over the next 33 years -- and you have "The Dixie Swim Club" on stage as part of the Wetumpka Depot Players' 30th Anniversary Season.

The script by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jasmine Hooten gives each character a distinct and familiar personality that matures with them over the years and gives each of the cast members plenty of opportunities to develop nuances that make them more than mere caricatures.

That's not to say that they lose these traits: Sheree [Terri Thompson], a fitness & health-food addict, is always the group's organizer; often-married Lexie [Kim Mason] never ceases to stay glamorous and flirt with men; Dinah [Ashley Moon] employs her career drive in the law to everyone's benefit; Jeri Neal [Bridgette Harper], a former nun, remains optimistic throughout; and Vernadette's [Jan Hancock] annual broken-bone and tales of a dysfunctional family life keep the others entertained. In fact, all of them provide entertaining diversions for the rest and for us.

Other than the yearly ritual reunion, there is little plot in this play; instead, these women's enduring friendship is what holds interest. In essence, they are all good people -- somewhat flawed -- who are instantly recognizable in their ordinariness, making it easy for us to identify with their individual quirks and off-stage lives. They divulge a lot about families and events that have happened during the year, though they swear that their weekend get-togethers are for them alone, away from other friends, family, social obligations, jobs...a time and place to enjoy one another's company.

Though their histories come alive, and they occasionally wax nostalgic in revisiting the past, these women live in the present. They argue a lot and vie for attention, but realize that the fights are not as important as the bonds of friendship.

As they face so many common issues -- marriages and divorces, health, age, alcoholism, career choices, the economy, birth & death, and hurricanes -- all with a sense of humor, we watch their friendships grow and solidify as they continually discuss and share new aspects of their lives and characters.

We learn that Lexie "may be vain and frivolous, but not shallow", and that Dinah did a lot more for all of them that no one ever knew, that Vernadette's life "is one big country song" and that Jeri Neal's grandmother's homespun advice settles many arguements, and that Sheree's hors d'oeuvres that taste like "regurgitated ferret-food" create bonds of affection.

"The Dixie Swim Club" gives a fine example of ensemble acting under Hazel Jones's intuitively sensitive direction. We enjoy their company and may learn much from them.