‘Dixie Swim Club’ charms at The Snug
MARINE CITY, Mich.–You might know someone (or be someone yourself) who has enjoyed an occasional “girls’ weekend” or “guys’ weekend.” The luckiest among us enjoy those get-togethers at regular intervals. In Dixie Swim Club, playing now at The Snug Theatre in Marine City, audiences are treated to a humorous and somewhat sentimental inside look at the annual beach getaway of five southern women.
Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, and directed by Kathy Conlon, Dixie takes place in a beach cottage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, during four such getaways over the course of thirty-three years. The five women were originally united by their membership on a championship college swim team, and their friendship has been kept alive by their annual vacations without husbands, kids or career trappings. They continue to wax poetic about the grand old days of the team, still chanting the team motto and taking group swims, all the while enjoying liberal servings of martinis and screwdrivers. But their common origins on the team may be the only thing they have in common, as we soon learn.
Sheree (Cindy Rhein) is the organizer—let’s go ahead and call her the micro-manager—of the group, who takes charge of scheduling, menus, communication and emergency kits. Dinah (Katherine Guc) is the career-oriented lawyer whose priority on material things has crowded out time for relationships with men. Lexie (Colleen Everitt) is the perpetual flirt, whose announcement of her most recent divorce never seems to shock her friends, while the newest man on her radar surprises them even less. Jeri Neal (Amy Choudhury Martin) is the friend who followed her heart into the convent, then followed some less traditional choices (for a nun). And Vernadette (JM Ethridge) is the disaster magnet whose witty sarcasm helps her deal with the string of bad luck in her life, which seems to escalate annually.
Regardless of their different stations in life, the women all find joy, comfort and renewal at each annual gathering. For example, they always arrive expecting to learn of the latest calamity in Vernadette’s life, such as her son’s most recent arrest, or her daughter’s latest cult obsession. They can ask her about it without fear of causing her stress, because they know she has already viewed it through the lens of her own detached sort of humor. Lexie, who was never married long enough to one man to raise a family, asks her: if she could do it all over, would she still have children? “Yeah,” Vern replies, ”just not the same ones.”
As well as they know each other, they can still sometimes surprise one another, which mean laughs for the audience. Some of the behavior is somewhat predictable, but their conversations and witty comments, both to one another and as asides, are what keep the story lively. There are a few secrets revealed, of course. Conversely, they are often glaringly honest with each other, which results in some serious disagreements. But it is also their honesty which brings them back together as lifelong friends.
The performances across the board are good, and the chemistry among the actresses feels genuine. Surprisingly, the most relatable character may be Vernadette, because many of us have had a terrible situation which later made us cringe retrospectively at the humor in it. As disastrous as Vern’s life is, this also makes her the funniest character on stage.
The set does resemble a tidy, beachy cottage, even though props and set pieces are not largely important to Dixie’s success. The scene changes took a bit longer than is usually comfortable, probably owing to costume and wig changes denoting the passage of years.
Notably, the “soundtrack” music that is played during scene changes and intermission is very well chosen. Ultra-popular hits like “Celebration,” “Dancing Queen,” “YMCA,” “Funkytown” and “It’s Raining Men” had the audience humming, moving and tapping their toes. The very story-appropriate “Lean On Me” actually inspired a spontaneous audience sing-along.
Anyone who has had the joy of a lifetime friendship, or who aspires to one, will appreciate the relationships between Sheree, Dinah, Lexie, Jeri Neal and Vernadette.
Dixie Swim Club is playing at The Snug Theatre through August 26, 2018. Several performances are sold out, so if you plan to see this touching comedy, act fast.