Dixie Chicks 

THEATER REVIEW: With "The Dixie Swim Club," Swift Creek Mill Theatre sends one out to all the Southern ladies.

click to enlarge (From left) As Cheap Trick once said in song, “Southern girls got a way with your words and you show it”: Georgia Rogers Farmer as Lexie, Jennifer Frank as Vernadette, Jacqueline Jones as Jeri Neal, Joy Williams as Sheree, and Jody Stricker as Dinah in “The Dixie Swim Club.”

Robyn O'Neill

(From left) As Cheap Trick once said in song, “Southern girls got a way with your words and you show it”: Georgia Rogers Farmer as Lexie, Jennifer Frank as Vernadette, Jacqueline Jones as Jeri Neal, Joy Williams as Sheree, and Jody Stricker as Dinah in “The Dixie Swim Club.”

I once read a review of "Steel Magnolias" comparing the show's one-liners to the ones embroidered on ornamental pillows.

The comment was meant to be snarkily disapproving, but perhaps it was a good litmus test for the play's intended audience: Do you find such phrases as, "I'm not crazy, I've just been in a very bad mood for 40 years," amusing?

If you do, "Steel Magnolias" probably is right up your alley. If you don't, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

Considering the success of "Steel Magnolias" — as well as "The Golden Girls" and "Designing Women" — it's obvious there's an audience that loves seeing women in the South discuss life, men and aging. Similarly, "The Dixie Swim Club" follows five women who meet every summer for a weekend at the Outer Banks.

As staged by Swift Creek Mill Theatre, there's plenty of warmth and mirth while the play runs through 33 years of these women's lives. There's former swim team captain Sheree (Joy Williams) and perpetually down-on-her-luck Vernadette (Jennifer Frank). There's former nun Jeri Neal (Jacqueline Jones), and cynical lawyer Dinah (Jody Strickler). And there's Lexie (Georgia Rogers Farmer), the professional flirt whose number of ex-husbands rivals the number of cosmetic surgeries she's undergone.

On opening night, the actresses don't hit it off right away, but soon find their comedic groove. Farmer and Strickler are particular standouts, with Strickler dryly commenting how she'd rather have a Mercedes than a husband, and Farmer humorously defending her frisky nature. As Vernadette, Frank is pitifully comic, appearing in a clown suit and a cast. Her rant near the end of the show about the importance of biscuits is an audience favorite.

With its shell-shaped wall sconces and seafoam green color palate, director Tom Width's set looks like it was imported directly from Nags Head, N.C., and Maura Lynch Cravey's costumes fit each character, particularly with Lexie's ever-changing appearance. My only technical complaint is with the two extremely long set changes midact.

Though one of the three playwrights for this show worked on "The Golden Girls," perhaps it's closest to "Steel Magnolias" in its mixture of humor and drama. Between martinis and marriages, hurricanes and heartbreak, "The Dixie Swim Club" serves up a swimmingly satisfying evening of theater. If you appreciate this play's predecessors, perhaps this is just the kind of pillow talk you'll want to hear. S

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"The Dixie Swim Club" plays through Aug. 2 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway. For ticket information call 748-5203 or visit swiftcreekmill.com.

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