BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – The play is about friendship, and the players radiate the glow of friendship.
That’s “The Savannah Sipping Society” performed by four accomplished women of Rogue Theater community theater of Door County.
The camaraderie brightens the story devised by a trio of writers with direct connections to TV sitcom success. This play has that quick-quip crackle, like this from one of the characters:
“If it weren’t for mood swings, I wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”
The lively production directed by Stuart Champeau is running for four more performances in Baileys Harbor Town Hall. Rogue Theater has made the community gathering space into an impromptu theater – another case of “all the world’s a stage.”
Writers Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten aren’t Shakespeare, but they have a rhythm with a series of comedies-with-a-moral featuring Southern women.
This time, the women’s stomping ground is Savannah, Georgia. Most of the players supply accents.
The women in the story are at a point, as stated along the way, that they think no one wants to listen to anything they want to say anymore.
Funny things surround that thought. Three of the women meet at a grueling yoga class in a place akin to a boiler room, and the fourth joins in a setup scene in the wake of a publicly embarrassing to-do: Two of the women insulted one another, and now they are coincidentally at a get-together going toe to toe. Ahh, sitcom humor.
Soon, all the women connect and are part of a life makeover campaign by one of them. It seems there’s no place to go by up for:
+ Randa (Lola DeVillers), an architect caught in a downsizing – of one – and she is dumped for a young male… and she has throttled her boss for the oversight.
+ Dot (Pamela Johnson), whose husband was a master of putting off enjoying good things in life until retirement, after which he promptly died.
+ Marlafaye (Lori Wier), whose longtime husband left her for a 23-year-old dental hygienist, propelling Marlafaye to leave her nursing career to move to Savannah to become a traveling liquor salesperson. (The writers use that for some “Sipping Society” material).
+ Jinx (Jamie Buesing), who has spent her life on the move – and moving some more – to be with her final family member, a sister who barely recognizes her.
The show is mostly comical. Jinx, the life coach, dreams up experiences for the group – a salsa dance, a Renaissance event, a date with a man for each, etc. – and loopy things happen, along with jokes:
For a party, Randa slips on a sparkly, slinky dress. One line: She looks like “a disco ball with feet.” Another line: The event calls for something “more Lord & Taylor, not lewd and tacky.”
To get from one group thingie to the other for the women, the writers have a clever segue for costume changes: monologues. One woman/player stays behind for self-revelations told in comical ways – or a bit of melancholy – as the others race through costume changes. Over time, the audience learns more about each character while seeing a healthy display of costumes that tend to be brightly colored. Most elaborate are flashy Renaissance fair costumes specifically created for this production.
For each scene after the first one, a different kind of beverage suitable for sipping is served – as if page after page from a mixology book.
Overall, the play is 1,000 interlocking pieces. Guided by Stuart Champeau, the women work together as a team – and soloists – to create a kind of comedy therapy. It’s a sweet community theater production.
In Sunday’s matinee, a kind of friendship took place twice. First, during a pause, one player fed another her next line in the blink of an eye. Later, during a pause, the roles were reversed, again in the blink of an eye. Theater = friendship.
Creative: Playwrights – Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, Jamie Wooten; director – Stuart Champeau; costumes – Sydney Champeau, cast and Green Door Thrift Store; co-artistic directors – Stuart Champeau, Lola DeVillers
Randa Covington – Lola DeVillers
Dot Haigler – Pamela Johnson
Marlafaye Mosley – Lori Wier
Jinx Jenkins – Jamie Buesing
Running time: Two hours, 22 minutes
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15-16 and 2 p.m. Oct. 17
THE VENUE: Baileys Harbor Town Hall auditorium is located in the Baileys Harbor Town Hall-McArdle Library building, 2392 County F, Baileys Harbor. Built in the 1930s, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The multipurpose auditorium includes a stage on its south side. The proscenium stage is raised three feet above the main floor, which is of light hardwood akin to wood found on a bowling alley. The stage is approximately 20 by 10 feet. Yellow/gold stage curtains fringe the performance space, with dark laminate wood serving as the stage’s lower facing. At the rear of the stage in each corner are two dark brown doors that appear to be of the building’s vintage. On the ceiling is a roll-up screen for film/slide presentations, with its cord hanging over the stage. For “The Savannah Sipping Society,” seating is on folding or straight-back movable chairs. For COVID-19 concerns, masks are optional; concessions are limited to water; hand sanitizer is available.