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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

'The Dixie Swim Club' frolics in the shallows

Special to The Advertiser


Manoa Valley Theatre

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 31


www.manoavalleytheatre.com, 988-6131

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"The Dixie Swim Club" begs the question of whether three writers can collaboratively hammer out a successful stage comedy. The trio can write jokes and sketches and television episodes, which minus commercials might total 23 minutes of dialogue.

But a two-hour, two-act play with developed characters and a sustained action line is something else.

So the most interesting aspect of the new show at Manoa Valley Theatre is watching how Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten build their script.

Clearly, they turn out some sparkling one-liners: "I share more secrets now with my mother since she's been in a coma, she's not so judgmental."

And they know how to work up to a laugh line:

"I'm going to have a grandchild."

"Oh, how wonderful!"

"Yes, the DNA test proved positive."

Accordingly, an evening with "The Dixie Swim Club" is very well-crafted and rolls out the laughs with measured regularity.

Five women from a college swim team meet at a beach house each summer. Shed of families and jobs, they share a weekend, free to be themselves and to tease and support each other. But, while facile, the script isn't actor-proof.

In the MVT production, the characters are types the career woman, the man-eater, the organizer, the unsophisticated victim and the trusting ex-nun. They age, but aside from some shared confidences under threat of an impending hurricane they don't deepen. The laugh lines aren't fully grounded in character and some clarity is lost under the honey-and-magnolia Southern accents.

Despite the considerable fluffing-up, the show's second most interesting aspect is when the playwrights choose to set their scenes.

Although they get together annually, we first meet the women 22 years after college graduation. At age 44, youth and bloom have faded and they have at best a last chance to take a bite at life's juices. They age 10 years in the next two scenes and have only a short window for a mature backward glance before they sink into counting their losses and begin to spy old age on the horizon.

The final scene is in actuality an epilogue, in which four survivors in their late 70s still making plans gather to scatter the ashes of the first to die.

But cheer up! This is a comedy, folks. And while the gags and the yuks are tossed out like so much flotsam and jetsam on sun-kissed waves, we hardly notice that they are carried along on a menopausal undercurrent.