Friendships, Southern Style

A Southern woman knows how to make 
an entrance.

“The Dixie Swim Club” gets that just right, as the vivacious members of the all-female cast take their turns — with pregnancy news and clown suits among the elements of surprise.

The longtime friends are arriving at a beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where they’ve met every summer for more than three decades.

The lifelong pals, who were teammates on the Pemberton College swim team, spend one week a year together with no men, kids or work. Personalities clash and chaos sometimes ensues in this lively comedy, staged through Sept. 15 at Alhambra Theatre & Dining.

During that week in August, the ladies laugh, love, catch up and — of course — meddle in each other’s lives in a comedy dotted with dramatic moments that’s often compared to “Steel Magnolias.” The friends also realize more and more that they aren’t the seemingly invincible young women they once were.

As the years take their toll, the women lean on each other more for support and realize the value of their friendships. Beauty, booze, births and Botox, this show has it all, engaging the audience — men and women alike — throughout.

“I never knew what true happiness was until I got married, and by then it was too late,” “The Dixie Swim Club” member Vernedette shares, enjoying the week away from husband Burl.

The stories, insights and woes they share are hysterical. The all-female cast features Alhambra veterans Lisa Clarson, Patti Eyler, Lisa Valdini and Brooks Anne Hayes Meierdierks. Fort Myers native Elizabeth Rothan makes her debut at the dinner theater, playing vain, pampered Lexie.

Long-ago swim team captain Sheree (Clarson) force-feeds her friends healthful treats, which they proceed to spit into a potted plant to avoid eating. The health nut takes it upon herself to continue her duties as captain. Clad in bright-colored workout gear, she recites the week’s schedule at lightning speed.

Flirtatious Lexie grieves living the “thinnest years of her life” with ex-husband No. 3 — one in a string of many failed relationships. She doesn’t spend time moping; instead, she daydreams of her next male companion or plastic surgery. She believes she’s still “young and sexy,” with the “neck of a 30-year-old.”

Lawyer Dinah Grayson (Eyler) arrives at the beach ready for a cocktail. She busts out her cocktail shaker and martini glasses and continues to toss ’em back morning and night. She worries she’ll never find a man whom Lexie hasn’t already dated.

Vernedette Sims (Hayes Meierdierks) is plagued by her husband Burl and her ill-behaved children. Wearing a neck brace, she fills her friends in on her family’s misdeeds. Vernedette proves to be the center of the comedy.

“Unless it’s a chalk outline on the living room floor, I feel it’s better the less we know than more,” Vernedette remarks about her children.

Jeri Neal (Valdini) arrives last, with the biggest surprise of all. The former nun has made a major lifestyle change so scandalous, it shocks the others as much as it did the church.

The cast of veterans — dubbed the “grande dames of the Alhambra” by the theater — captures the audience with the outlandish yet relatable escapades of the members of “The Dixie Swim Club.”

Ultimately, they discover the days of believing “the faster we swim, the sooner we win!” are becoming harder to remember. Regardless of what life throws at them, the women remain spunky and enthusiastic.

The Alhambra serves Southern cuisine for the performance, featuring biscuits and honey butter, fried chicken, herb-crusted tilapia and pulled pork. As Vernedette would say, “Put on your fat pants and embrace your heritage.”

Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, the comedy is no doubt a crowd-pleaser for women, and it gives men insight into what happens when they’re not around.