Women in the South/Women in Dublin
A woman passing by on the way to her seat made the comment that there were men in the audience. It actually took a few moments for me to realize why this might have been something worth commenting about. It was Elm Grove. It was a performance of The Dixie Swim Club. I don’t know that there’s anything officially designating the comedy as a woman’s show. I know that the playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten are America’s Favorite Comedy Writing Trio. I know this because it says so in quotes on the landing page for their website. I also know that it’s a show with an all-woman cast, so I guess I know why there might be the impression that it might be more of a show FOR women.
Dustin J. Martin directs a script written by two men and a woman featuring an all-woman cast. Written just a few years back, The Dixie Swim Club plays a bit like a commercially inoffensive cross between Steel Magnolias and The Golden Girls. It’s about a longtime friendship between a group of southern women who meet many times over the years at a country retreat to swim and relax. Honestly the basics of it feel kind of like a cynical attempt to market to a specific demographic of theatergoing women. Thankfully for the Sunset, the cast that’s assembled does a really good job of distracting from this with a fun ensemble. On one end of the spectrum, a charming Maureen Chobanoff and a variety of wigs play a vivacious personality that fully embraces the passionate drama of life. On the other end there’s a Linda Wirth--comically abrasive and tough as granite as a lawyer trying to blow off steam outside of the courtroom. Years pass between scenes. At opening curtain they’re all in their 40s. By the end they’re all...not...in their 40s.
Sunset Playhouse’s production of Dixie Swim Club runs through May 7 at the Sunset’s Furlan Audtorium on 800 Elm Grove Road. For more information, visit Sunset online. A full review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express.
In a couple of weeks, Milwaukee Irish Arts presents an all-woman production as well. Talented actress Lindsey Gagliano directs Joan End, Libby Amato and April Paul in a staging of Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem. Where Dixie Swim Club concerns a group of friends over the decades, Little Gem concerns itself with ONE year in the life of three generations of women from the same Irish family. End, Amato and Paul are all very good actresses who so often find themselves in larger casts. Here we see these women taking center stage in interlocking monologues in the pleasant warmth of a beautiful space that was built in the late 19th century.
Milwaukee Irish Arts’ production of Little Gem runs May 5-8 at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center on 2133 W. Wisconsin Ave. For more information, visit Milwaukee Irish Arts online.