By Sheri Berger
The Lofte Community Theatre, October 9, 2021, 7PM.
What does an unmarried architect, a retired French teacher, a divorced liquor sales representative, and a young nail technician who aspires to be a life coach have in common in Savannah, Georgia? You’ll find out in the Savannah Sipping Society at the Lofte Community Theatre October 9th-24th!
We first meet Randa (Rosalie Duffy), who has devoted her life to her career as an architect. She has a breaking point at work after being unrecognized for her accomplishments, and is passed over for a partnership. Instead, she is fired, and replaced by a young and inexperienced man. Randa meets Dot (Beth Joy Haneline) at a hot-box yoga class. Dot hilariously states that the class is “Lucifer’s little sweatshop.” She also meets Marlafaye (Therese Rennels), a recent divorcée from “outside the Mason-Dixon line” Tyler, Texas.
After bonding over the intensity of the class as they part ways for the day, Randa offhandedly comments she would have invited them for drinks on her front porch. Dot and Marlafaye excitedly accept and make plans to appear the following day.
As they gather the next evening, a fourth woman arrives, Jinx, played by Melissa Holden. She is the local nail technician as well as an aspiring life coach, and soon enlists the other ladies to be her clients. Jinx and Randa begin to quibble over an earlier altercation, but in true Southern fashion a genuinely disarming compliment leads quickly to friendship.
The play is set on the front porch of Randa’s home, which this reviewer knows very well to be the normal place in Georgia to drink and socialize. The set is beautiful, and invokes all of the Southern charm, from the well-furnished porch, down to lace curtains and glowing orange-gold light from behind the windows.
Director Kevin Colbert assembled a hardy and experienced cast. Rosalie Duffy, as Randa, played a very believable tightly wound career woman who didn’t have a great support system, and, unlike her brother, couldn’t please the Grandmother who raised them.
Therese Rennels played Marlafaye, whose character is supposed to be a bit less polite and more rough around the edges. Accents vary between the Southern states, and I thought Ms. Rennels did a fantastic job with her Texan accent and mannerisms, which helped establish her character as a newcomer to town. Marlafaye is a woman scorned by a cheating husband who took off with a 23 year-old dental hygienist after she spent years building a house and a life she thought she would enjoy into retirement.
Beth Joy Haneline was the perfect choice for Dot. Dot misses her deceased once-in-a-lifetime husband, Ross, and feels cheated she also didn’t get to spend retirement as she thought she would. Beth flawlessly delivered to the audience a woman who misses the companionship of a marriage and needs help with the physical challenges of getting older.
Melissa Holder, who plays Jinx, kept up the energy in the cast with her positive and encouraging sincerity as their “life coach.” By the end of the show, Jinx realizes she needs these women and their friendships in her life just as much as they need her.
Stage manager and actor Peyton Banks makes an uncredited appearance as Grandma. Kudos to Peyton for this fun little bit!
Each character delivers at least one short monologue in the course of the play, expressing their ideas and giving more depth to their character’s emotions. All of the women delivered their monologues with intent and clarity.
The writers of this story, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten are experienced at writing about the Southern woman trope, and have won numerous awards. Together they wrote The Dixie Swim Club, Always a Bridesmaid, and The Red Velvet Cake War. Jamie Wooten also wrote for the Golden Girls TV Series. This play definitely has the quip, inner fire, and one-liner pace that is aways enjoyable to watch, especially between friends. The amount of dialogue is a heavy-lift, and all of the women in this play do a fantastic job at communicating the spirit of their character to the audience.
This play is a timely reminder that loneliness is real and change in our lives is inevitable, but it also explores how we can get “unstuck” from those obstacles. Jinx (Melissa Holder) sums up the problem well when she states, “there is no one left who wants the best for me.” Life is full of loss and new experiences. The life we build may not turn out the way we planned, and we will have to adapt and reinvent ourselves, maybe more than once. How will we approach it? What new relationships will we make in order to sustain ourselves as we deal with new and different problems as we age? This play delivers the answer for these four unlikely characters: the power of sisterhood and friendship, and the gift of being heard and understood will see them through their seasons of change.
Come join the gals as they speak their mind and sip whiskey together on Randa’s front porch at the Lofte Community Theatre in Manley Nebraska, October 9-24th.
The Savannah Sipping Society is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.
If You Go: The Savannah Sipping Society runs October 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24. Start times are 7:00 PM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 2:00 PM on Sunday. Tickets are $24 and can be purchased by calling 402-234-2553 or through their website at https://www.lofte.org/.
Sheri Berger is a business minion, dog momma, arts groupie, and co-host of the Platte River Bard Podcast with her husband, Chris Berger.