Theater review: ‘The Dixie Swim Club’ at Flat Rock Playhouse

MAKING A SPLASH: Marcy McGuigan, Paige Posey, Betsy Bisson, Tauren Hagans and Nancy Johnston perform in The Dixie Swim Club, penned by the Southern-fried comedy team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. Photo courtesy of Flat Rock Playhouse Photo courtesy of Flat Rock Playhouse

Fans of the timeless sitcom “The Golden Girls” will feel at home with the Southern belles of The Dixie Swim Club. Flat Rock Playhouse continues its strong season with that production, onstage through Saturday, July 22.

Playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten (a writer of the aforementioned “Golden Girls) are known for their Southern-fried comedies. Although their works are usually lightweight, this one, for the most part, gets it right. The story feels as if we’re reading a breezy summer novel under an umbrella. Five friends meet at a quaint beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There, they share the trials and tribulations of their lives since their swim team days in college.

Because the casting is so perfect, it’s hard to say who’s better in this production. Much like in “The Golden Girls,” this is a fabulous issue to have. It’s always fun to analyze your circle of friends, matching each personality with the correct character. The same can be done here. Each actress in this play presents very distinct personas.

Betsy Bisson as Vernadette nearly steals the show with her down-home portrayal. She embraces the lady from the South who knows how to roll with the punches (and life has sure thrown a lot of them). Bisson is so comfortable in the role, which makes her absolutely hilarious. When she takes a stand during a biscuit battle rant, claiming they’d have to be pried from her cold, dead hands, this gains her a much-deserved cheer from the audience.

Marcia McGuigan as Lexie plays the saucy Blanche Devereaux-type character to the hilt. She’s toweringly attractive in bright costumes by Janet Gray and manages to charm us like a cat. Her comedic timing is dead-on, putting us in the mind of sitcom star Wendie Malick. McGuigan has never been better.

It’s great to see Tauren Hagans finally be given a larger role. As the pregnant ex-nun Jeri Neal, she has the opportunity to jump-start the play’s progression. Paige Posey is splendid as lawyer Dinah. She becomes the center of the drama. When her character explains being paralyzed by a moment in which her beaded necklace breaks and scatters across the floor, Posey is best illuminated.

Each scene feels like a different episode in time-lapse as the ladies return to the beach house year after year. By the final scene, they’ve reached their late 70s. FRP newcomer Nancy Johnston, as Sheree, makes the greatest change, both visually and acting-wise. As the dutiful planner, there’s quickness in her step that’s sadly gone but not forgotten by the play’s end.

The touching story does an admirable job with the theme of aging, although the fun-but-safe direction by Michael Kostroff should’ve focused more on transitions. Other than the beginning and end, there’s no noticeable change in decades. Actresses should have been coached accordingly to show distinction, especially in the third scene. There’s a major missed opportunity in not representing sharp time-era differentiations with costumes, set dressing and props.

Since the play is set in our home state, it helps bring a sense of realism to this production. This is a show to see with friends. It’s an absolute laugh riot, and the hysterical cast is truly outstanding. The Dixie Swim Club is a sheer Southern crowd-pleaser.

WHAT: The Dixie Swim Club
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock,
WHEN: Through Saturday, July 22. Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., matinees on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays (July 22 only) and Sundays at 2 p.m. $15-$50



About Kai Elijah Hamilton
Kai Elijah Hamilton was born and raised in Western North Carolina. A poet, screenwriter and playwright, he is also a published film and theater critic. Hamilton is a creative individual with a wide range of talents and interests. He is an Award Winning Actor (Tom in "The Glass Menagerie") and Director ("A Raisin In The Sun"). He previously served as Artistic Director at Hendersonville Little Theatre and has a B.A. in theater and film from Western Carolina University. In 2016, Hamilton's play "The Sleepwalker" won a spot in the first annual Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival by NYS3. His play "Blackberry Winter" was a finalist in the elite Strawberry One-Act Festival in NYC winning Best Short Film/Video Diary. Hamilton is also the author of the full-length southern-gothic play "Dry Weather Wind" which has been called "Important. Relevant to the issues in today's time, and beautifully written..."

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