Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Walpole Footlighters’ first show of their 94th season is “Savannah Sipping Society” by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooton. Four unique Southern women, all needing to escape the sameness of their day to day routines are drawn together by fate. At an impromptu happy hour, they decide it’s high time to reclaim the enthusiasm for life they’ve lost throughout the years. Randa, a perfectionist and workaholic, is struggling to cope with a surprise career derailment. Dot, still reeling from her husband’s recent demise and the loss of their plans for idyllic retirement, faces the unsettling prospect of starting a new life from scratch. Earthy and boisterous Marlafaye, a good ole Texas gal, has blasted into Savannah in the wake of losing her tom-catting husband to a twenty three year old dental hygienist. Finally, Jinx, a spunky ball of fire, offers her services as a much needed life coach for these women. Directed by Wendy Stuart who gives these actresses the insight into these comic characters but also makes them deliver the goods in a poignant moment to give the show a nice mixture of comic and dramatic moments. This creates a well rounded show that the audience can savor and thoroughly enjoy.
Wendy gives each actress their moment to shine in this show. All four actresses do a superb job in this high energy show. This whole season is dedicated to Barbara Pettis, a 45 year member, who originally was to direct this show and had cast it before her unexpected passing away in July. I first met Barbara back in 2004 when I reviewed “She Loves Me” which she directed. The gorgeous set 2nd story verandah of a home is by Dan Sheehan while Kate Smith supplied the comic costumes which reflect the characters personalities. Cindy Bell shines as Randa, who goes from uptight to friendly during the course of the show. She’s lost her job and has a bitter rivalry with her lawyer brother, Alden and a contentious relationship with her rich shrewish grandmother. (There is a hilarious scene with this crotchety old woman at the end of Act 1 that has to be seen to be believed.) Cindy’s character hasn’t had a date in 30 years and on Valentine’s Day finally does with surprising results. Randa, Dot and Marlafaye first meet after a failed yoga class and then meet again at Randa’s home. The first meeting has a lot of cheese brought by the women. Cindy’s interactions with the other characters are excellent especially her first meeting with Jinx when she recognizes her as the one from the express line in the market. Evie Rayburg does a terrific job as Dot, a lovable grandmother type more concerned about others. Evie stepped into this role seven days before the show due to an accident that Kay Carter Blaha had. She does an amazing job with the enormous amount of dialogue. Some of her funniest bits include smacking a doll on the table because she was upset that her husband died so suddenly on her, takes her bra off in a very comic scene and reads dirty books from the library.
Barbara Pettis’ real life daughter, Cynthia Wegel plays Marlafaye, the funniest character in the show. She has the best one liners including cutting the crotches out of her husband’s pants. Cynthia is dynamite with her larger than life charm and the anger directed at a cheating hubby. Barbara Schapiro is marvelous as Jinx, a sympathetic busybody who moves from place to place constantly and has come to Savannah to take care of her sister who has dementia. Barbara looks like Shirley Maclaine with her blonde wig. She has many funny lines and also a serious monologue later in the show which hits home with the audience. They teach us life lessons while entertaining us. So for a marvelous new show from the writers of “Golden Girls” TV series, be sure to catch “The Savannah Sipping Society” at Footlighters before time runs out. A show that I am sure Barbara would be very proud of indeed. Brava!
THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY (20 October to 5 November)
Walpole Footlighters, 2 Scout Road, East Walpole, MA
1(508)668-8446 or www.footlighers.com