Orange Park Community Theatre’s third show this season is The Dixie Swim Club, a touching comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. Even though this is a rather prolifically performed script, it remains popular. The relevance of the characters in the story consistently cuts across generations and communities as a study in friendship and how it grows and changes through the years.
Five Southern women who became friends on their college swim team set aside a long weekend each year to recharge their relationships. Free from husbands, children, jobs, they always meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. Opening 22 years after they graduated, the play focuses on four of those weekends spanning thirty-three years. These friends increasingly rely on each other, through advice and boisterous banter, to get through life’s challenges.
Sheree (Liane Barkley) was, and continues to act as, the swim team captain, keeping the group organized each time they meet. Dinah (Mia Wilson) is a fireball with her lines and career overachiever who doesn’t find love until later in life – with one of her teammates ex’s. The oft-divorced Lexie (Nicole Hatfield) has so many ex’s, that it would be hard to find someone she hasn’t dated or married. She is vain and she tends to make her personal issues the subject of the weekend discussions, until she has a truly world shattering issue and her character evolves further in the last scene when she takes in one of the women as her roommate. Mia and Nicole do a very nice job switching from their more normal acerbic routines to a touching scene when Nicole discusses true tragedy in her life.
The funny bone of the group was Vernadette (Natalie Primm), and this lady is a comedic gem. Always injured by some means or other, with a deadbeat husband, a child always being booked for arrest and a truck bumper held on with duct tape, she is the happiest and embraces the chaos. Natalie gives a speech about Southern women making biscuits which almost garners a standing ovation from this southern audience. Jeri Neal (Victoria Tompkins) surprises everyone at the start of the show. Jeri is a former nun who winds up with a different calling and eventually marries a younger man and always looks at things optimistically.
Director Barbara Wells has a cast whose execution of the witty banter had the audience roaring. Instead of having “stage crew” changing the set in between scenes, Ms. Wells set them up as “caretaketers” of the cottage, which was a nice touch. The set was quite beautiful, with an lovely backdrop painting by set artist Irene Cheatum. For both laughter – a few tears – a generally very enjoyable show, catch one of the remaining performances.
OPCT is located at 2900 Moody Ave. in Orange Park. For reservations or information, you can call 904-276-2599 or go to www.showtixnow.com. The next show of their season is One Toe in the Grave, which opens March 1st.