'Dixie Swim Club' full of southern charm

Maybe I’ve spent far too many hours watching “Golden Girls” reruns on late-night TV, but there’s something vaguely comforting about the familiarity of a group of women sitting around talking about sex, booze, and more sex.

That’s probably why I felt right at home in The Earlville Opera House Wednesday night, watching a preview of this weekend’s Sherburne Music Theater Society production of “The Dixie Swim Club,” written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten and directed by Rich Heim.

If you’ve ever seen the aforementioned “Golden Girls,” or even “Designing Women” or “Steel Magnolias” for that matter, you’re already familiar with the plot of “The Dixie Swim Club.” It centers around a group of five brash Southern women, who formed a bond as members of a college swim team and meet every year thereafter in August at an Outer Banks, North Carolina beach rental for a weekend catching up, laughing, drinking, and meddling in each other’s lives.

“Dixie Swim Club” has a stellar cast of local talent (a few of whom I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing perform before) who relish this deliciously witty material and form an instant, palpable chemistry together. As the play moves from summer to summer in these women’s lives, you can’t help but believe that they’ve really loved (and sometimes hated) each other for years.

Jennifer Fowler plays Sheree Hollinger, the perky former team captain with a penchant for creating utterly inedible hors d’oeuvres. Cathy Robinson is the Blanche Devereaux of the group, as the flighty sexpot Lexie Richards, moving from one divorce to the next. Donna Moren plays Dinah Grayson, the uptight lawyer whose wit is as dry as her martinis. Helen Johnson plays the downtrodden, white trashy Vernadette Simms, and Shari Taylor rounds out the group as former nun turned single mom Jeri Neal McFeeley.

The dialogue of the play is filled with the charm, passion and repartee you’d expect in a dramedy about a group of disparate women from the deep South, and “Dixie Swim Club” has it all in spades. Sitting pretty much all by myself in the theater Wednesday night, I found myself laughing out loud more than once – which, if you know me at all, is a ringing endorsement in and of itself.

I’ll confess that I only made it through the first half of this one, though, having picked the hottest night of the year (decade?) to see this show. The Earlville Opera House is truly one of Chenango’s gems – quaint, intimate and filled with historic charm. What it is not, is terrbily hospitable on a night of 1,000 degrees. It’s cooled off now, though, so I think you’re safe. Besides, you’ll be laughing so hard, you wouldn’t notice the heat anyway.

“The Dixie Swim Club” officially opened Thursday night, but there are two more shows – tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Earlville Opera House. General admission is $12 and $10 for EOH or SMTS members and students are discounted to $7. For more information, or to reserve your seats, call (315) 691-3550 or order online at www.earlvilleoperahouse.com. The Opera House is located at 18 East Main Street in beautiful downtown Earlville.

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