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Review: ‘The Dixie Swim Club’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

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Aldersgate Church Community Theater presents The Dixie Swim Club, a Jones Hope Wooten comedy directed by Eddie Page. Following the bond of five southern women over the span of three decades, this touching play is the ultimate “girl’s night out” event this Summer season.

Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater

Photo courtesy of Aldersgate Church Community Theater

The production team and technical crew gives these ladies a great foundation to work with. Designed by Eddie Page and constructed by master carpenters TJ and Lise Downing, the set shows the living-room of a beach cottage. A crew of set painters led by Mary Hutzler give the cottage a feminine touch with pastel pinks, while beach scenery can be seen outside the windows. Set Dresser Charles Dragonette uses patterned curtains and plump pillows to complete the picture. Overseen by Master Electrician Marg Soroos, lighting by Marzanne Claiborne pairs well with sound by Alan Wray; the illusion of dimmed sunlight through an opened window and the sound of waves and seagulls gives life to the beachy cottage.

The most impressive component of the setting, in my opinion, is the television screen that opens each scene with clips of prominent news and pop-culture references from each era the scene is set in, with video production by Austin Fodrie. For example, the opener for a scene set in the mid-90’s shows clips of the infamous OJ Simpson speed chase and a Mariah Carey music video, while the opener for our present-day scene blares news clips about the Zika virus alongside the theatrical trailer for “The Revenant.”

The play centers around the friendship between five women who met on their college swim team, and maintain their friendship through yearly beach weekend getaways. The rule: no husbands, no kids, just the girls. The audience’s only reference into these women’s lives are through these girls-only retreats, which proves interesting and illuminating. With each scene divided by lengthy time periods, we are able to see these ladies’ lives grow and change, and the support (and yes, tension and conflict) that goes with keeping a friendship strong and lifelong.

I loved the costumes by Cecilia Alberts and Lisa Brownsword. I imagine this play is a challenge for a costumer, because not only do they have to present each woman’s unique character through her clothing, but they must also display the changing cultural trends over time. The women are captured well; for example, the flirty, glamorous Lexie Richards (Edye Smith) dresses in sleek, trendy outfits while the frazzled and spazzy Vernadette Simms (Lorraine Bouchard) wears crinkled, ill-fitting clothing.

Tina Anderson leads the group of ladies as Sheree Hollinger; an overachieving, over-organized mom who comes packed with an exhaustive itinerary and “healthy snacks” that the other women stealthily dispose of in the household plants. Janette Moman is bold and brash as Dinah Grayson, a single workaholic who always has a martini-shaker in hand. Lisa Desjardins Downing plays the sweet and simple Jeri Neal McFeeley, and Edye Smith is the dramatic Lexie Richards, always chasing down the latest plastic-surgery trend…and the younger men that come with it. While there were some hesitant line deliveries and a few nervous flubs,  the overall performances were solid.

However, the stand-alone performance here was that of Lorraine Bouchard, who had the audience in fits over singeing one-liners and witty asides (a passionate and silly speech devoted to southern biscuits garnered lively applause from the audience). The ladies love to meddle in each other’s affairs and tease, using a pithy, lighthearted banter that only comes with familiarity.

While the overall tone of the play is comedic, the women support each other through a lot over the years, including divorces, illnesses, and dramatic life choices. The plot is raw, relatable, and real, shown in some emotional audience reactions. While the target audience for this show is a very specific one in my opinion (older women will enjoy it the most, especially if they see it with their friends), the show is an enjoyable one. The theme of enduring friendship, especially among women, is studied extensively in the arts, but there is a reason for that– the theme touches everyone in some shape or form. Fans of movies such as Steel Magnolias, Beaches, or Fried Green Tomatoes will enjoy this production.

Funny, poignant, and satisfying, Aldersgate Church Community Theater‘s production of The Dixie Swim Club is a good way to spend a summery evening with your friends!

Running Time: Approximately Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Dixie Swim Club plays through October 17, 2015 at Aldersgate Church Community Theater –  1301 Collingwood Road, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

RATING: FOUR-STARS19.gif

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