‘Dixie Swim Club’ characters come to life

Published 10:25 am Thursday, October 11, 2012

Column: Stage Right

No matter what we think we know about our closest friends, there’s always something unexpected waiting to be revealed around the corner. In ACT’s first play of the season, “Dixie Swim Club,” the unexpected “revelations” showing up on stage are hilarious or poignant or both.

The story that unfolds over not quite two hours (even with a short intermission), spans four weekends and 33 years of the lives of five Southern women, whose friendships began years ago on a college swim team. They meet at a North Carolina beach house for one long weekend every August to recharge those friendships. Free from outside responsibilities, they laugh at and taunt each other, meddle in each other’s lives and support each other as life’s undertow inevitably tries to suck each of them down into the dark.

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Once the theater lights dim and the stage lights come on, what does the audience see? Five women, each of whom possesses hidden strengths and often lives with hidden tensions and pain, as well.

The swim team captain, Sheree, remains the unelected leader and organizer, though the rest whine about her schedules (and her cooking). Unlucky and unhappily married Vernadette is the sardonic commentator on the travails of her own and her friends’ lives, especially on the stories told by the narcissistic, sex-obsessed and surgically enhanced Lexie. Dinah is the successful single woman of the group, focusing the cynical but astute eyes of a successful lawyer on the stories (and bodies) of the others. The final friend to appear on stage is Jeri Neal, a nun who springs the first big surprise on the group.

Directed by Glen Parsons, the show features a strong ensemble performance from all five actors, with Kris Bartley as eager organizer Sheree, Barb Sekora as a sensual, selfish and yet sensitive Lexie, Rosalie Truax as over-achieving (and martini drinking) Dinah, Nancy Lahs as a hapless but not defenseless Vernadette, and Kristan Dye as a naïve and trusting Jeri Neal.

Working together, the ensemble brings these five women to life and quickly establishes the illusion that we’re witnessing the depth and breadth of friendships that began years earlier, when the women were still young, single college student-athletes. Their lively portrayals of teasing and banter make us believe that these five have been friends for years.

The willing suspension of disbelief that any theater asks of audiences is made easier by the trimmings on the stage. The set has depth, and along with props and costumes, helps transport the audience through space — to a beach house down South — and through time — back to the early 1980s. Sitting in the audience, it’s easy to believe that we are eavesdropping on the experiences of real women. Sound was crisp and audible, thanks to the nearly invisible wireless mikes the actors wear.

Performances begin at 7:30 each night and are scheduled for tonight, Friday and Saturday and Oct. 17-20. Tickets may be purchased online at www.actonbroadway.com or at the box office in the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, 147 N. Broadway. The box office opens at 3:30 p.m. on performance days or call 377-4371.


Albert Lean David Rask Behling is a theater enthusiast.