By LAUREL BUSBY
Circling the News Contributor
Fans of Steel Magnolias will likely be delighted by Theatre Palisades new play, The Sweet Delilah Swim Club.
Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and James Wooten, the play centers on five Southern women, former college swim team members, who reunite each summer for a festive weekend at a beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The women sling zingers worthy of The Golden Girls (Wooten was a writer on that show) and share each other’s lives at seminal moments during four weekends that occur over a span of more than 30 years
As directed by Sherman Wayne, Sweet Delilah Swim Club features a committed cast who display a flare for both humor and connection. The script, first performed in 2007, has become popular at community theaters and provides a simple tale with kindness at its heart. The banter between the women and their shifting life stories is the spice that enlivens the plot.
Sheree Hollinger, the health-conscious team captain played with warmth and verve by Maria O’Connor, organizes the group’s activities and tries to improve their eating habits, while Lexie Richards, a looks-obsessed narcissist (played with conviction and pathos by Laura Goldstein), provides both comic relief and occasional unexpected humanity as she regales the group with both her repeated divorces and her obsession with attractive men.
Vernadette Simms (Mary Allwright), a long-suffering friend who struggles with poverty, a difficult marriage, and a son who keeps going to jail, provides a constant streak of humorous commentary. Allwright exhibits a gift for comic timing as she spouts one-liners, such as “Of all god’s creations, elastic waistbands are my favorite” or “That’s the problem with husbands—they’re always saying they’re going to die for you, and they never do.”
Finishing out the cast are Dinah Grayson, a career-driven, hard-drinking lawyer who Michele Schultz invests with clarity and dimension, and Jeri Neal McFeeley (played with comic sweetness by Martha Hunter), a longtime nun who has a surprise in store for her friends when she arrives for the play’s first weekend together, which occurs 22 years after their graduation.
The crew bounces off each other with their disparate personalities, but, in Sweet Delilah Swim Club, the friendship that united them in college is one that can literally weather any storm. The evolution of the women through life’s challenges provides a touching thread that grows as the play progresses, and the different facets of their personalities shine in ways that will especially appeal to people who enjoy shows ranging from Designing Women to Beaches.
Co-produced by Wayne and Hunter, Sweet Delilah Swim Club also offers charming costumes by Alta Abbott and a homey beach cottage set (designed by Wayne) that is an apt playground for this tale of friends who make their way through life together.
Performances continue through December 11, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at Pierson Playhouse, 941 Haverford Ave. For tickets, call (310) 454-1970.