Along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, in a quaint North Carolinian cottage, five college friends meet every summer for a weekend of no work, no men, no kids, and no cares. But with the challenges of growing old, sometimes they get more than they bargained for.
Should you see it?
Sheree, Lexie, Dinah, Vernadette, and Jeri Neal were star members of their college swim team and remain the best of friends even twenty-two years after graduation, due in part to their annual ritual of a summer get-away to a cottage on the shore. The Dixie Swim Team presents us with glimpses into four such weekends, full of melodramatic news, good-natured teasing, and heartfelt support.
Without a driving narrative or obvious conflict, this play relies on its characters to engage the audience. While the cast does a good job conveying the Southern charm of these five women, I unfortunately often felt like I was watching stereotypes (the ‘cougar’, the mother figure, the vapid sweetheart, the comic relief, etc.) instead of compelling, complex people. Their friendship felt simplistic and saccharine with conflicts resolved and slights forgiven as soon as they started to get interesting. This made for a rather monotonous night out.
That said there were some stand-out performances. Jenn McMillan as nun turned single mother turned career woman was adorable and believable in her innocence and naiveté. In the second act, Micheline Mathon’s performance of an older Vernadette was heartbreaking, genuine, and beautiful as was Kitty Galt’s portrayal of a compassionate and gentle elderly Lexie. The final scene was truly moving and a satisfying emotional note to end on.
The Dixie Swim Club is a comedy but I found its humor kind of groan-worthy (as an example, the one-liner: “That’s the problem with husbands, they always say they’re going to die for you, but they never do”). Coupled with the superficial treatment of its characters, I felt like I was watching an episode of The Golden Girls without any of its beloved bite. However, the audience had plenty of laughs and seemed to really enjoy the show so perhaps I was just the wrong demographic.
This play is a light-hearted look at the struggles of motherhood, divorce, grandparenthood, career changes, illness, aging, and the death of loved ones. The glimpses of life at forty-four, forty-nine, fifty-four, and seventy-seven may be exaggerated but doubtlessly contain grains of truth that resonate with people of those generations.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to hear what you think. Was The Dixie Swim Club a theatrical version of Hot in Cleveland, or did it sizzle like Sex in the City? Which was your favorite character, or who did you identify with most? Do you keep in touch with your college friends? Let us know in the comments section below!