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Culture » Culture Features

Sisterhood of the Traveling Swimsuit

Dixie Swim Club opens CTC's 35th season

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It's no Beaches, but Dixie Swim Club does have a few "Wind Beneath My Wings" moments. I won't spoil it, but the play follows five women who revive their lifelong friendship by meeting at the same North Carolina, Outer Banks cottage yearly—"no men, no kids, no work, just us." Over three decades years the women share their lives, struggles and triumphs—and, if you've ever seen Beaches, you can guess what happens at the end. Don't forget the tissues.

If this sounds like a total chick flick, it's because it is. This dram-com deals with men, motherhood, careers, aging and mostly the web of long-term friendship—a serious crowd-pleaser for folks in the same age range as the characters, which is pretty much everyone as the play spans three decades starting in their mid-30s and running into the gray hairs.

With quipping dialogue and snappy comebacks, the laughs are imbedded in the play's writing and are plentiful. The banter often feels like an episode of "Golden Girls." Jamie Wooton—who co-wrote the play with Jessie Jones and Nicolas Hope—was a writer and producer for the show in the early '90s. The serious plot line is more of an afterthought to the comedy, but it's an honest afterthought raising relatable issues of aging and death.

The first scene starts with each woman entering and flatly characterizing herself, before being shuffled off to make way for the next. The five local actors take to their larger-than-life characters with ease.

Team captain Sheree (Kate Andrews) is always organizing; Lexi (Susan Benson) keeps getting remarried and getting plastic surgery; career-focused Dinah (Janis Sharpe) starts shaking martinis; Vernadette (Tracie Finley-Schuman) is always down on her luck; and Jeri Neil (Patricia West-Del Ruth) keeps quoting her pragmatic southern Granny McFeely. The five women each fill an archetype guaranteeing that everyone will find one character that reflects a caricature of themselves.

The costumes are the main indicator that time has passed, exaggerated at 10-year intervals starting in the decadent '80s. Some of the jokes hit better than others, but there are so many of them that comedy that flops is soon forgotten in a bigger, louder, more exaggerated gag or a spot-on sarcastic quip.

The play is produced by women for women. Director Juliah Rae seems to have found her niche at the helm of reflective and funny plays about reconnecting with the past. Her last foray at CTC was the serendipitous mid-life crisis production Shooting Star. She also directed a production of Steel Magnolias of which Dixie Swim Club is strangely reminiscent—although, most of the play is more funnier and less tearful. Don't let that comedic glaze trick you—Dixie Swim Club is still a heartfelt tear-jerking look at friendship and the long road of life.

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