Surrey Little Theatre’s latest play (opening this week) is the decidedly southern-accented comedy The Dixie Swim Club, by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.
And, appropriately enough, it’s brimming with talent from the deep south – the deep south of the Semiahmoo Peninsula, that is.
Of the five busy community theatre actresses in the cast, Mahara Sinclaire (of Peninsula Productions) and Margaret Shearman are certainly from the south end, as is Laurie Kortschak, whose day gig is as a veterinarian in South Surrey.
And Cindy Peterson and Cathe Busswood are also very well known to Peninsula audiences for productions by the White Rock Players Club at Coast Capital Playhouse.
The well-respected quintet of seasoned regional players adds up to a dream cast for this ensemble piece, said director Mike Busswood (husband of Cathe), best known as an actor with a strong comedic sensibility and latterly as a Theatre B.C. and Community Theatre Coalition award-winning producer (Surrey Little Theatre’s The Last Lifeboat).
“I’m very lucky to have this cast – they’re very experienced and very agreeable to work with,” Busswood said.
“A lot of my work as a director is already done – I have five women of a certain age who have bonded around the same response to me: ‘why is he wrong?'” he chuckled.
“They’ve got hold of it and they’re running with it. All I did was herd them a little and put in some bits of comedy and make sure they were all on the same page, accent-wise.”
The Dixie Swim Club tells the story of Sheree, Dinah, Lexie, Vernadette and Jeri Neal.
They’ve all been friends since they were on the same college swim team, and each August they take a long weekend at a beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up on each others’ lives, far from husbands, kids and working responsibilities.
Jones, Hope and Wooten’s script, full of raucous repartee, focuses on four of those weekends over a span of 33 years – with all the built-in potential that offers to explore the challenges they face, including men, sex, marriage, parenting, divorce.
‘They’re five really well-defined characters,” Busswood explained.
Sheree (Shearman), the former team captain, is still the group leader, while struggling to maintain her ‘perfect’ life. Dinah (Kortschak) is a wisecracking career dynamo, whose victories in the courtroom can’t make up for the frustrations of her personal life. Pampered Lexie (Sinclaire), wanting to hold on to her youth and looks, likes marriage so much that she’s continually changing spouses. Vernadette (Busswood), acutely aware of a ‘dark cloud’ hanging over her, has decided to surrender to chaos, while sweet-natured Jeri Neal (Peterson) is fated to be introduced to the joys of motherhood late in life.
“It’s a heartwarming, ultimately quite poignant story,” Busswood said.
He and Cathe discovered the script in a rather roundabout fashion, he said.
“Our daughter Samantha was travelling two years ago and she had a chance to see an amateur theatre group in Arizona, who were doing this show.
“She loved it and when she came back she said ‘you guys should do this.’ We read it and agreed with her that it was a very enjoyable play, and it turned out that we were familiar with the writers – they also did Christmas Belles which Cathe was in and Dearly Beloved, which I was in.”
Busswood agreed that men in the audience may have to be prepared for frequent elbows in the ribs from their spouses during the course of the show.
“It’ll be ‘see – it’s not just me,'” he said.
“It’s become almost pejorative to call something a ‘chick-flick’ or a ‘chick-play.’ But this is a piece that will be really well received by women and men who know women well.
“As a director, I might have had a bit of trouble with this if I were younger, but as someone who has been married 37 years and has two daughters, I think I can say I’m very much in touch with my feminine side.”
Surrey Little Theatre is located at 7027 184 St. (Clayton Heights). Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 30.
For tickets ($17), visit www.brownpapertickets, call 604-576-8451 or email firstname.lastname@example.org