A warm ensemble cast – (left to right) Laura Ross, Sarah Green, Lori Tych, Alaina Holland and Danielle St. Pierre – elevates Peninsula Productions’ The Dixie Swim Club, continuing until Saturday (July 28) at Coast Capital Playhouse. Beverly Malcom photo

Dixie Swim Club: a splash in shallow end

Peninsula Productions’ cast provides the real strength in protracted sitcom

Peninsula Productions’ version of The Dixie Swim Club, which wraps up this weekend at White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse, gets full marks for its ensemble of players, efficient staging (by Peninsula co-founder and artistic director Wendy Bollard) and evocative set, costume and technical work.

But while it clearly connects with audience members seeking belly laughs and an unchallenging night of theatre, nothing can really disguise the fact that Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope’s script is a splashy dip in the shallow end of the pool – a protracted sitcom, heavy on character-driven comedy, but feather-light on incident and insight.

Not surprisingly, Wooten was for many years a writer and producer on TV’s Golden Girls, and it’s tempting to view this study of five Southern women – former members of a college swim team, who gather for successive reunion weekends of boozing and bitchy humour – as a repository of unused television script ideas.

Make no mistake, there are laughs to be mined from the foibles of these characters, and this cast serves their zingers well.

But when The Dixie Swim Club does, on occasion, turn to the serious side, it comes across less as a genuine statement and more as a ploy to suggest an emotional depth that isn’t really there: it scarcely qualifies as an epiphany, after all, to learn that people grow older as years go by and that some even die ahead of their time.

Little wonder that the usual approach to the show is for players to take it right over the top.

There’s plenty of scope in the play for ‘bums-on-seats’ amateur and professional companies ready to substitute theatrical razzle-dazzle for any semblance of reality.

Bollard and her indisputably talented company have generally reined in such extremes – which is commendable, on one hand. But, sadly, the closer they came to reality – in the gala night performance I saw – the more they tended to emphasize the threadbare nature of the material.

The real strength of this production is in the genuine warmth and touching camaraderie developed by players Laura Ross, Danielle St. Pierre, Sarah Green, Alaina Holland and Lori Tych, who also manage to suggest the passage of some 35 years during the course of the play, with subtle, rather than telegraphed, changes.

Ross helps bond the company with her good-natured humanity as Sheree, the former team captain, whose organizational obsession, and indigestible food offerings, are the butt of many jokes. And St. Pierre creates a convincingly free-spirited Dinah, a successful lawyer whose drinking and jibes tend to mask true feelings that only come out in quieter moments.

Green and Holland have a field day with two gift roles; Green unfailingly amusing as pampered, man-hungry Lexie, whose serial relationships never quite seem to give her the validation she craves, and Holland consistently funny as accident-prone Vernadette, whose background story seems to resemble a trailer-trash train wreck.

And Lori Tych, in a variation from the intensity of her usual roles, is endearing as the sweet-natured, essentially innocent, Jeri Neal – and demonstrates her acting skill anew in the quite magical way she can evoke advancing years through body language alone.

The show runs until Saturday, 8 p.m. performances. For tickets ($27, $22 seniors and $13 students), call 604-536-7535 or visit peninsulaproductions.org

Just Posted

Torched-SUV victim ‘had the purest heart,’ says sister

Family of teen found in burned SUV in Surrey appeals for justice

United Way to bring little libraries to Clayton

United Way is hoping to partner with residents to host the free gathering spaces for the community

Delta to give Deltassist $75,000 for seniors programs

The funding will replace a grant from United Way that’s set to expire next year

In split vote, Surrey council gives early nod to draft budget

Councillors Locke, Pettigrew, Hundial and Annis vote against capital program

White Rock sandcastle competition on the rocks

Backers of the proposal – the White Rock Events Society – plan to call it quits

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award

Derek Cornelius and Chilliwack native, Jordyn Huitema were named Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

B.C. teen MMA fighter shows heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home Ws

2,000 Canadians died of an overdose in first 6 months of the year

New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows the crisis is not subsiding

Another B.C. city votes to ban single-use plastic bags

First six months of proposed ban would focus on education, not enforcement

UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

May won the vote of 317 Conservative legislators with a 200-117 tally

Most Read