Arts & Culture

‘The Dixie Swim Club’ makes an enjoyable splash in Cambria

Joyce Calderone, Janine Elich, Janice Peters, T.C. Wits and Samatha Loring (top row) star in the Pewter Plough Playhouse production of “The Dixie Swim Club.” The cast also includes Carol Burkhart, Anita Schwaber and Gai Smith.
Joyce Calderone, Janine Elich, Janice Peters, T.C. Wits and Samatha Loring (top row) star in the Pewter Plough Playhouse production of “The Dixie Swim Club.” The cast also includes Carol Burkhart, Anita Schwaber and Gai Smith.

The adage time really flies when you’re having fun certainly holds true for the Pewter Plough Playhouse’s production, “The Dixie Swim Club.”

With dialog that sparkles like sunshine on the ocean, the comedy/drama glides along swiftly under Kelli Howard’s direction, providing entertainment for adult audiences.

Time even speeds by for the characters.

For 22 years, five Southern women have met each summer at a beach cottage to let it all hang out. They formed their lifelong bond while on a college swim team.

The team captain, compulsively organized Sheree (Joyce Calderone), always arrives first with her to-do list and healthy appetizers that no one can stomach.

Career woman Dinah (Janice Peters) shows up next and heads straight for the bar, to cool off in North Carolina’s August heat.

Then the voluptuous and self-absorbed Lexie (Samantha Loring) makes her grand entrance, followed shortly by Jeri Neal (T.C. Wits), who joined a convent after graduation.

The four anxiously wait for Vernadette, aka Vernie (Janine Elich), who’s driving a rattletrap car after a recent accident.

Sheree, the most well-balanced of the group, devotes her life to her husband and children.

As a highly successful attorney, Dinah has been too busy to get married. Vernie grouses about her rebellious children and redneck husband.

Spoiled, man-hungry Lexie is going through her third divorce, and soft-spoken Jeri Neal announces some surprising news about her life as a nun.

In Scene 2, five years have passed; the women no longer meet every summer. By the second act, five more years have elapsed.

In the final scene, nearly two dozen years have whizzed by. The remaining women, pushing 80, look and feel the ravages of time, including memory loss.

Because 33 years pass in the course of the two-act play, three age-appropriate actresses take over some roles. Carol Burkhart is the older Sheree. Anita Schwaber becomes Vernadette, and Gai Smith takes the part of Jeri Neal.

During their get-togethers, the longtime pals catch up, talk about the good old days, laugh, share confidences and give advice, comfort and encouragement.

They also quarrel, express resentments, shed tears and talk frankly about their relationships and sex lives.

But the play isn’t all talk and no action. It includes an emergency trip to the hospital and an evacuation for a threatening hurricane. Now and then they manage to get out the door for a swim or go out for a meal.

The women are as different as possible, with distinct personalities and lives — and are not stereotypes. Although some sad moments do occur, the play doesn’t attempt to push emotional buttons and is never mawkish.

Elich is outstanding as the loudmouthed Vernie, who is rougher around the edges than her cohorts, and whose life is constantly chaotic.

Loring perfectly captures the outrageously vain and sexy Lexie. Amazingly, this is the first time that Loring has acted.

Together with the rest of the cast, they manage convincing Southern accents. Peters and Elich fine-tuned theirs when they performed in “Steel Magnolias” at the Plough last year.

Playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten — known collectively as Jones Hope Wooten, or JoHoWo — have made their reputation by creating vivid, strong roles for women in comedies. “The Dixie Swim Club” exemplifies that.

Contact freelance writer Lee Sutter at sutterlee@hotmail.com.

‘The Dixie Swim Club’

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; through Sept. 11

Pewter Plough Playhouse, 824 Main St., Cambria

$17 to $25

805-927-3877 or www.pewterploughplayhouse.org

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