“The Dixie Swim Club” is making a big splash this month at The Players. The play is a popular comedy/drama by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. The club comprises five former members of a Southern college women’s swim team. After graduation, they make a solemn pact to hold a summertime reunion every five years, come hell, husbands or high water. True to their word, the women periodically gather at an Outer Banks beach college, remember old times, catch up on new life events and take a group swim.
As to the aquatic Dixie Chicks in question: Sheree (Lynne Doyle) is the former team captain — and still bossy after all these years. She’s still organizing the get-togethers, planning the itinerary and whipping up inedible health food concoctions (which her teammates spit out when she isn’t looking). The oversexed Lexie (Laura Sommer Raines) is a big fan of plastic surgery and a firm believer in marriage — at least, based on the number of husbands she goes through. Dinah (Cara Herman) is a powerhouse lawyer who chooses career over kids. She’s never seen without a martini glass in hand — or a snappy comeback on her lips.
Over the course of successive reunions, the accident-prone Vernadette (Julie Look) wears an arm sling, a leg cast and a neck brace. Her relationships are equally unlucky; she has a drunk for a husband, a cult-prone daughter and a repeat-offender son. She’s karma’s punching bag but seldom complains. Jeri Neal (Kristi Hibschman) is a ditzy-but-goodhearted former nun who left the sisterhood to become a single mother instead.
The play takes us forward in time through four reunions. We start somewhere in the "Me" decade (23 years after their graduation) and wind up in the iPhone decade (now). At the first reunion, the aging process is just a nasty rumor; 33 years later, it’s a painful reality. Kids, jobs, husbands, health and hurricanes also take their toll. But, despite occasional bickering and banter, the women deal with it all with good grace.
Director Elliott Raines and the five actresses win the audience over and never fail to get laughs. Of course, that’s relatively easy when you start with such likeable characters and witty dialogue.
“The Dixie Swim Club” takes a warm, lighthearted approach to life’s heavy issues. At times it feels too light, like a sitcom/chick flick balloon ready to float away. The characterizations, comic rhythms and heartstring tugs of the Sisterhood of the Southern Swimmers recall “The Golden Girls” and “Steel Magnolias” a wee bit too closely. Are real people ever this likeable? Do real friendships ever hold up this well?
If your answer is no, move on. If your answer is yes — and you think the irresistible force of friendship can blast through the immovable objects of single motherhood, divorce, vanity, economic downturns, bad relationships, bitterness and the depredations of disease, old age and death itself — that’s a different story.
The Dixie Swim Club is always looking for new members.
IF YOU GO
“The Dixie Swim Club” runs through June 22, at Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org.