All the Fun, Straight, No Chaser in “Savannah Sipping Society”

By Eva Phillips

Randa is an unstoppable career woman whose prosperous career as an architect has just been, well, stopped after an unfortunate (but justifiable) at-work eruption. Dot is a vibrant woman in her 60s who, despite her chutzpah, feels like she lost the prime of her life in her marriage to her now late husband. Marlafaye is sharp-as-nails and sassy-as-can-be former nurse/current liquor rep (and darn good at it, too) who is still livid after the infidelity of her ex-husband that ended their marriage. Randa, Dot, and Marlafaye, hellbent on manifesting positive change in their lives, decide to take an unbearably sweltering hot yoga class, and after escaping, fortuitously run into each other and forge an utterly unlikely and utterly unbeatable friendship and drinking partnership that will change the course of their lives in ways they could have never fathomed.

Savannah Sipping Society is a divinely alliterative, saccharinely Southern treat that the team at Apple Hill Playhouse has turned into a wonderful theatrical experience. Reminiscent of iconic tales of Southern female friendship and fortitude—like Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias—Apple Hill’s adaptation of the play written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten is delight to watch from start to finish, replete with a lovely set, fine stage production, and hilariously charming performances. Director Chelsea Fredrickson adroitly guides the very spirited cast through a well-told, heartfelt story.

Briana Downs (Randa), Mary Ferrara (Dot) and Jennifer Fitzgerald (Marlafaye) grace the stage with enjoyable confidence and ease. They exude wit and charm, and their wonderful chemistry and cheeky rapport is evidenced throughout the show. Fitzgerald especially commands the stage, with her efficacious humor and delivery, coupled with her sharp-tongue and penchant for vulnerability, making her an undeniable scene stealer. As the women strengthen their unlikely friendships (enhanced, of course, by the plenitude of booze upon which they sip upon), they are joined by Jinx, a straightforward, delightfully determined makeup artist/consultant Jinx (played by Lisa Bompiani-Smith). Jinx is looking to launch her dream career of a life-coach, and they women realize they are, perhaps, the perfect palettes for Jinx. Bompiani-Smith is a joy to watch, balancing Jinx’s spunky enthusiasm with genuine care and desire to help in a convincing way. The women begin to tackle their greatest roadblocks—Randa strategizes how to overcome her lack of employment; Dot enthusiastically indulges her lust for life that’s heedless of ageism; and Marlafaye channels her homicidal rage for her ex-husband to move on with her life.

Even as the women’s stories veer into the inevitably zany territory, Savannah Sipping Society remains deeply relatable and fun. Set Designer Nik Nemec, Scenic Artist Grace Bender, and Construction Crew/Technical D McDonald Productions deserve resounding applause for an absolutely stunning set that had me nostalgic for my family’s old farms and homes in Georgia and South Carolina. Additionally, Artistic Director Pat Beyer’s skills and insight are prominent throughout, elevating the show’s charm.

Savannah Sipping Society is a hilarious and endearing story from start to finish, deftly weaving interstitial soliloquies/narrations, and engaging storytelling. Apple Hill Playhouse should be proud of such a show.

The Savannah Sipping Society runs through August 25th. For tickets and more information, visit Apple Hill Playhouse’s homepage.

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