Stage & Dance

Southern-fried ‘Dixie Swim Club’ opens season for Studio Players

Studio Players begins its 2016-2017 season with one of its specialties: the Southern-fried comedy. Its opening production of “Dixie Swim Club,” by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, is a light, if not lithe, romp through the lens of five women whose college friendship is renewed every summer when they meet at a cottage for a weekend of fun and bonding.

Directed by Hallie Brinkerhoff, Dixie Swim Club is written by the same trio behind “Christmas Belles,” and like the zany, entertaining Christmas show, “Dixie Swim Club” is full of colorful female characters whose lifelong friendship tugs on the heartstrings, even while their humorous antics induce side-splitting laughter.

Debbie Sharp, Allie Darden, Jennifer Roth Parr, Abby Reeve and Rachel Milller each bring something unique to their roles. The type A, team captain, mother hen of Sharp’s character, Sheree; Roth Parr’s dry-as-a-martini quips as the lawyerly Dinah; and Miller’s nun-turned-single mother Jeri all hum with Southern verve.

Nowhere is that more patently on display — and enjoyable — than Abby Reeve’s character’s momentous, scene-stealing monologue about the sanctity of biscuits.

I’ve kept an eye on Reeve’s gift for comedy since her appearance in “Sealed for Freshness” at Actors Guild a few years ago. Reeve is a natural comedian, and I hope to see her land a lead role in a comedy one day; she is ready to carry a show on her own. I enjoyed the show as a whole, but it was Reeve’s moments on stage that made me laugh out loud the most.

If Darden’s character, Lexi, reminds you of a younger, vainer version of Blanche from the “The Golden Girls,” it might be because one of the playwrights wrote for the TV series. It’s easy to feel the familiar one-two-punch formula of the sitcom’s format throughout the show. In fact, watching the show felt a lot like what I imagine being in the studio audience of a sitcom must feel like.

As with a sitcom, the formula can sometimes feel forced. Comedy is hard work, and sometimes that shows when it shouldn’t. It sometimes feels as if actors are in the mode of waiting to say their lines and stand in the right place at the right time rather than letting the lines and action flow organically, naturally. There could be more snap, crackle and pop, more cohesion as a unit to make the team’s chemistry more palpable and the group dynamics even more believable.

The show is light but not effortless.

Despite this, the production succeeds in spreading the message of the importance of enduring friendships which, to many of the show’s characters, proves more reliable than family through the years. The play’s final, stirring moments — when they have lost one of their own — made me think heavily about mortality, friendships, and how the years fly by.

Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.

If you go

‘Dixie Swim Club’

What: Studio Players’ production of the comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten

When: Through Oct. 2.

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Fri., Sat; 2:30 p.m. Sun.

Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Ct.

Tickets: $21 general admission; $11 students

Call: 859-257-4929

Online: Studioplayers.org

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