Members of the audience were both howling with laughter and brought to tears at the dress rehearsal for Bard to Broadway’s The Savannah Sipping Society production on Friday, June 29.
A tale of four ladies from the southern United States at various stages of mid- to late-life crises, the audience saw an at-times crude comedy that nonetheless hit the mark, and at others a delicate and touching dramatization of the roadblocks and hurdles of life.
Whether it’s re-building a life after splitting up with a cheating spouse, a loss of identity after losing a job (in explosive fashion), seeing the life of a loved one slip away, or one’s own waning health as the years go on, a lot is thrown at these ladies who ultimately make up the Savannah Sipping Society.
The play takes place over the first several months of the ladies’ friendship, and mostly on the veranda of former architect and disappointing daughter of a rich family Randa Covington (played by Daniella Novak).
She meets Dot Haigler, the oldest and most timid of the bunch (played by Rosalee Sullivan), and rough-around-the-edges, plain-talkin’ Texan Marlafaye Mosley (played by Kerry Campbell) after they all declare their latest attempt at getting out into the world and trying something new a complete failure.
Politely and absentmindedly invited over for drinks, Haigler and Mosley call Covington’s bluff and do just that, where Jinx Jenkins (a spunky young woman played by Kim Bellwood) is added to the mix.
Their character’s clash wonderfully, with Campbell getting some of the biggest laughs with her physical comedy adding to her dirty, direct and hilarious lines. Novak plays snobby and snide well, while also conveying her character’s lack of confidence and her connection with what the other three are going through.
Though accents can be a tripping point in plays with such a specific location, here they pass well enough. Bellwood’s accent tends to meander, but there is actually a narrative reason for this.
While Covington and Mosley (along with the actors who play them) may seem to be the standouts at the start of the play, each character gets the spotlight and grows along the way, giving all four actors the opportunity to do some heavy emotional lifting.
The play focuses on scenes with the four women meeting on Covington’s veranda (usually either before or after another collective attempt to try something new and get on with life), but is dotted with solo portions where the characters take turns telling the audience something important that is happening in their lives.
Both Sullivan and Bellwood shine in several of these moments, communicating fear, pain, anguish and hope in the face of situations that are all too common, and yet still tragic — perhaps more so.
But the comedy rolls on throughout, as the characters’ rough beginnings with each other wear down into a comfortable collective of very different but connected and supportive women.
While all four experienced actors will no-doubt be known to many of the returning Bard to Broadway fans, they all succeed in embodying their characters fully, portraying funny, unique and relatable people whose stories are lots of fun to watch unfold.
Opening night for The Savannah Sipping Society is Thursday, July 5 at the Village Theatre (110 West 2nd Ave., Qualicum Beach), with more performances into August. For a full schedule, and for information on tickets, go to b2btheatre.com/our-season-2/ or call 250-752-4470.