BWW Reviews: Cumberland County Playhouse's DIXIE SWIM CLUB Explores Friendships
The Cumberland County Playhouse opened their 2014 season with a comedy about five women and their friendship lasting through decades. Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jaime Wooten, The Dixie Swim Club feels a little bit like Steel Magnolias meets The Golden Girls. Seriousness, deep and lasting friendship, comedy, and the beautiful relationship that happens between women in the South during a lifetime are all things explored in the show.
Directed by Nicole Hackmann, the company delves into the friendships of the women as a group and individually, proving that in spite of drastic differences, some friendships stand the test of time and distance. Exploring things like marriages, children, divorces, careers, financial issues and illness, we travel from 1985 to modern day with this lovely cast of characters.
The five women have seemingly nothing in common, each leading very different lives. Sheree, played by Lauren Marshall, is slightly OCD, super organized, and the group's unofficial leader. Lexie, played by Weslie Webster, is flighty and flirty, and changes men in her life as if they changed liked fashion trends.
Dinah, played by Kathryn Berman, is a career obsessed lawyer in Atlanta, leaving very little time in her schedule for anything except her once a year weekends with her swim team mates. Vernedette, played by Dee Bell, is underpaid in her job and underappreciated by her family. She struggles with her children, her bills, and her health (she's a never-ending klutz). And then there is Jeri Neal, played by Leila Nelson. Sweet and innocent, Jeri Neal is the nun of the group (both literally and figuratively).
I must note the sound design behind the show. The sound is very much what tells the audience where they are in time. As the show covers several decades, the music, movie sound clips, and news bytes distinguish the time changes, from the 80s to current day. Oftentimes I caught myself singing along (silently, of course), laughing at a clip from the Clinton/Lewinsky era, and even teared up a little as we passed 2001 and heard a news clip from 9/11. It was the perfect way to move the audience along as the scenes changed.
Set design by John Partyka was simple, yet worked perfectly. The entire show is set in the summer beach cabin the five women stay in every summer. Even at its beginning, the house was outdated and dusty. Over the years, the house doesn't change much, and neither does the beautiful friendship between the women.
This is the type of show that you take your girlfriends to, or your mother and sister or your daughter. The Dixie Swim Club explores the wonderful friendships that can happen between women if they just put forth the trust and effort, and lay aside the unimportant differences and embrace each other as family, instead of someone disposable.
You can catch The Dixie Swim Club at The Cumberland County Playhouse through March 21st. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at 931-484-5000.