As a theater goer, you have to be careful when the words on the playbill say “touching,” “heartfelt,” or “poignant,” because some time during the evening, someone is going to cry.
I started my third year of attending Beef & Boards Theatre shows at the opening night of “The Dixie Swim Club,” the opening show for Beef & Boards’ 39th season.
The show features five women, 22 years after their last year on their swim team. Every year, the five friends — former nun Jeri Neal, successful attorney Dina, successful husband chaser Lexie, walking accident Vernadette, and team captain Sheree — return to their little cottage on the North Carolina Outer Banks (no men, no kids allowed), go for a few swims in the ocean, and catch up on what’s been happening since they last saw each other.
While the five women are good friends and keep in touch, and visit, throughout the year, this is the one time they get all to themselves. As an audience, we got to see them every five years, starting with their 44th year on this planet, up through their 49th, 54th, and finally, their 78th.
Rather than making this a show about five former athletes trying to relive former glory, the authors focusing on developing and growing the characters as they get older, and deal with the situations life throws their way. It’s not filled with swimming jokes or athlete jokes. They deal with real-life situations that everyone is going to face one time or another: facing divorce, finding new love, being a pregnant ex-nun, hurricanes, and — wait, what?
Jeri Neal, the former nun, shows up in the opening scene, staggeringly pregnant, and begins a new life as mother and wife as the show progresses. Lexie meets and divorces two different husbands throughout the show. Dina makes partner at her law firm, winning battle after battle in the courtroom. Vernadette is a walking testimonial for medical and life insurance, resigning herself to live with the chaos and bad luck of her life. Even life-is-perfect Sheree has her own crisis when she becomes a grandmother at 45. Plus, Dina flashes her underwear at the audience.
There are no great platitudes about the joys or sorrows of life. There are no thundering revelations that life should have turned out differently. And no one rises out of the ashes of anything. These are women who live their lives the only way they know how, and we get to see what happens with the choices they make.
I will state for the record that not once did I get choked up or even a little misty during the play. But then, I’m a guy, and we only cry at sports movies where someone dies. Or drops the ball. However, I can definitely see where people did, and I think I even heard a few snuffles and sniffs around the theatre that night.
Funny? Yes. Dixie Swim Club is a funny ?romp? through the lives of the five best friends. Touching, heartfelt, and poignant? Yes. It’s a story about five women, so it’s a certainty — even the raunchy movie “Bridesmaids” was touching, heartfelt, and poignant in some places. If you’re looking for something that’s a pleasant departure from the more traditional shows that Beef & Boards shows, go see Dixie Swim Club.