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BWW Review: THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB at Curtain Players


Curtain Players’ DIXIE SWIM CLUB provides a chlorinated cure for COVID

BWW Review: THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB at Curtain Players In the play,THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB, a group of female swimmers return each year to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a weekend rendezvous of drinking and playing catch-up on each other's lives. Curtain Players' season-opening production of this five-women play feels much the same way.

Because of the current pandemic, it seems like it has been years since Columbus has had any live entertainment. Although social distancing has become the new normal and face masks have become the new fashion accessory, seeing Curtain Players' current offering is much like catching up with an old friend.

The show runs Sept. 11-26 at Curtain Players' home base at 5961 Harlem Road in Galena.

Directed by Cathy Cordy, the two-act, 90-minute play takes its audience to four of the teammates' reunions over the span of 55 years to see how these women develop and yet, stay rooted to who they are.

Bringing the show to life is a charming cast of Sharifa Andrews (Sheree), Julie Emmert-Silvius (Jeri Neal), Lynne Hull (Lexie), Cheryl Nelson (Dinah) and Gail Stewart (Vernadette).

Each of the characters' roles in the group seems to stem back to their college swimming days. Sheree, the team's captain, plays the mother hen role organizing the get-togethers and coming up with a list of events and uneatable healthy snacks. Lexie, the self-absorbed spotlight seeker, comes to the beach house leaving a trail of wounded hearts in divorce court. Dinah, a martini-swilling lawyer, is enslaved to her job. Vernadette is a ne'er-do-well who lives underneath the dark clouds of her marriage and her two monstrous children. Finally, Jeri Neal, a former nun who leaves the Sisterhood to become a single mother, brings a sunny disposition to the group.

The quintet brings to life a delightful cocktail of a script that seems like it is one-part STEEL MAGNOLIAS mixed with two-parts GOLDEN GIRLS. At times after listening to the banter between the actors, it's not hard to picture Rue McClanahan (who played Blanche Devereaux on GOLDEN GIRLS) delivering Lexie's lines and Betty White's Rose Nylun answering as Jeri Neal.

There's a solid reason for this. THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB is written by the trio of Jamie Wooten, Nicholas Hope and Jessie Jones, who have composed over 15 plays. Wooten honed his craft as a writer for THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Jones co-authored the Off-Broadway Southern funeral comedy, DEARLY DEPARTED and she and Hope wrote for the Emmy-winning television series TEACHER'S PET for Disney.

Some of the misadventures seem a little too sitcomish but are saved by the trio's clever writing. For example, it is revealed that Jeri Neal is a nun who is coming to the reunion with a big announcement. Most of the audience could guess she is pregnant and will probably give birth in the first scene. However, the script has enough zingers to make up for the predictability. Upon seeing Neal's bulging stomach, Dinah says rather drolly, "Well, it looks like they relaxed at least one of the rules at the convent."

Vernadette then follows with "Oh honey, even Miracle Whip isn't going to get you out of this one."

However, the script often goes into places few sitcoms dare to tread. Some, like Vernadette's arrival at the retreat wearing a clown suit because her husband has stolen all of her other outfits to keep her from attending, are hilarious. Other scenes are not played for laughs. The characters go through a variety of trials, including cancer, deaths of spouses, Alzheimer's, and ultimately, the loss of one of their teammates.

Curtain Players went through their own set of tribulations in trying to put THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB on stage. Only a handful of the audience sees the show inside the theatre. The majority of the audience is watching the action from their cars via drive-in movie style with the show being broadcast on a gigantic movie screen in the parking lot.

The fact that area theatres are finding ways around the pandemic restraints to present live theatre is a blessing. The fact that Curtain Players has done so with such a great show is a miracle.

Curtain Players, located at 5691 Harlem Road in Galena, Ohio, will be presenting THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11-12, 18-19, and 25-26 and 8 p.m. Sept. 13 and 20. Call 614.360.1000 for ticket information.

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