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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

June 9, 2022 Issue
PART 3 (June 7, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.


The Sweet Delilah Swim Club at TIP: "How Sweet It Is!"

Staci Sabarsky (left) as Lexie Richards and Laura Singleton Jenkins as Dinah Grayson have a heart-to-
heart talk over martinis during a hurricane in The Sweet Delilah Swim Club (photo by Christine Rapp)

Theatre in the Park's current offering -- Jones • Hope • Wooten's The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, co-written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten and originally entitled The Dixie Swim Club -- is a rollicking laugh fest, laced with moments of tenderness. With a Same Time, Next Year type of arrangement, five women who were swim teammates in college have been meeting at the same North Carolina Outer Banks cottage on a designated weekend every August for several years.

We first meet these women when they are 44 years old. Thereafter, we see them at ages 49, 54, and 77. Although there is a bit of rockiness here and there, the bond of their friendship is strong -- they have supported each other through thick and thin. Indeed, it is easy to love all five of these women, not just for their individual personalities but also for the chemistry, the collective personality that emerges from their friendship.

It has been said that "casting is 90% of directing," and director Nancy Gardner Rich proves that assertion in spades -- I could not imagine better casting than these five actors in these five roles.

Sheree Hollinger was captain of the swim team, and she is still very much in charge. Benji Taylor Jones injects just the right streak of control freak into this spunky character.

Lexie Richards is obsessed with her looks, with her youth, and with men. In Staci Sabarsky's hands, Lexie is loveably vain and infectiously endearing.

Dinah Grayson is a very successful lawyer, and seems to be the most down-to-earth; and Laura Singleton Jenkins makes sure that her wit and humor are always apparent, front and center.

As Jeri Neal McFeeley, Bonnie Webster has created a character with a delightful blend of innocence, optimism, and vulnerability. Watch for the surprise in the opening scene.

As delightful as they all are, it is Tina Vance as Vernadette Simms that elicited the most laughter from Friday's opening-night audience. When asked if she had a "do-over," would she still have had children, Vernadette responds, "Yes, but not the same ones." That is just the tip of the iceberg, and Vance's delivery is spot-on every time.

Director Nancy Rich has set a brisk pace that keeps the audience on their toes and aching for more.

Staci Sabarsky as (left) Lexie Richards and Bonnie Webster as Jeri Neal McFeeley visit the beach
house for the last time in The Sweet Delilah Swim Club at TIP (photo by Christine Rapp)

As technical director, Josh W. Martin also wears the hats of scenic designer and projections designer; and he does so with aplomb. The set's cut-away rafters that emphasize the "beachiness" of the cottage are a nice touch, as is the choice to have furniture updated as the years pass.

Projections of photographs between-the-scenes suggest the passage of time, creating a sense of nostalgia, and these slideshows are creatively projected on multiple screens. Another nice touch: I am sure that I saw younger versions of the characters themselves; did the actors supply snapshots?

Costume designer Tracey Gallagher keeps the women's choice of clothing character-specific and year-appropriate during the nearly 40 years that the plot spans.

With lighting by Corey Arnold, sound by Rod Rich, and wigs by Andrea Marks, all production values are sound.

From the Department of Picky-Picky:

I was surprised that these characters (the ones that I felt I had so quickly come to know) did not put olives in their martinis.

And, while the dialogue does establish the passage of time, I would have preferred to have it set out thus in the program:


Scene 1: Twenty-two years after college graduation.

Scene 2: Five years later.


Scene 1: Five years later.

Scene 2: Twenty-three years later.

A Final Word: There is something kind of special about a show that is set in our own state of North Carolina. After all, the characters on stage are not the only people in the building who enjoy a weekend at the beach.

This is definitely a well-produced show, and The Sweet Delilah Swim Club is, without a doubt, a sweet show.

Catch it if you can. ALSO: You will love the music!

TIP's cast includes (from left) Staci Sabarsky as Lexie Richards, Bonnie Webster as Jeri Neal McFeeley,
Tina Vance as Vernadette Simms, and Benji Taylor Jones as Sheree Hollinger (photo by Christine Rapp)

Jones • Hope • Wooten's THE SWEET DELILAH SWIM CLUB (In Person at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9-12 and 17-19), directed by Nancy Gardner Rich and starring Benji Taylor Jones as Sheree Hollinger, Staci Sabarsky as Lexie Richards, Laura Singleton Jenkins as Dinah Grayson, Tina Vance as Vernadette Simms, and Bonnie Webster as Jeri Neal McFeeley (Theatre in the Park in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre in Raleigh). VIDEOS: 2022 SEASON: THE PRESENTER/VENUE:,,,, and DIRECTIONS: PARKING: COVID REQUIREMENTS (scroll down): THE SHOW: and THE SCRIPT (excerpts): TICKETS: $28.96 ($23.60 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel), except $20.38 per person for groups of 10 or more. Click here to buy tickets. (NOTE: The Sunday, June 5th, matinee is SOLD OUT.) GROUP SALES (10+ tickets): Call 919-831-6058 or click here. INFORMATION: 919-831-6058 or PLEASE DONATE TO: Theatre in the Park.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review.


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