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

Surrey First Education incumbents re-elected to Surrey school board

Veteran trustee Laurae McNally wins sole White Rock seat

White Rock Computer Club teaches the way of the future

From cat memes to security, the club has been teaching internet for the past 20 years

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

White Rock mayor-elect to focus on water, communication, OCP

Mayor-elect Darryl Walker says he doesn’t drink White Rock’s tap water

Who won and who didn’t in the Lower Mainland votes

A look at the region’s mayoral races, starting with Doug McCallum coming back to win in Surrey

Surrey-based podcast focuses on Canadian true crime

Corus Entertainment’s Curiouscast picks up Dark Poutine

Kennedy Stewart challenged with building bridges as mayor of Vancouver: expert

The former NDP MP, who ran as an Independent, will lead 10 councillors divided across four parties

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

Vancouver drag queens receive royal treatment during Kootenay Pride

Vancouver drag queens discuss the importance of Pride and growing acceptance of LGBTQ community

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

Most Read