Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Savannah Sipping Society
Also see Gil's reviews of Seven Guitars, Something Rotten!, Hairspray, and Ragtime
The Savannah Sipping Society focuses on four strangers who are single women of various ages and have all ended up in Savannah. The premise is that they have been drawn together by fate and a shared disdain for "hot yoga." When one of the ladies invites the others to her house for drinks they realize that, even though they don't know each other, they all have something in common, as they are all at various crossroads in their lives. That shared common bond begins friendships, a weekly ritual of Friday night happy hours, and a plan to rediscover the joy in their lives through a series of spontaneous misadventures.
While the play is more of a character study with a fairly minimal plot, it does focus on this fearsome foursome who are all unique, realistic women and who all learn from each other, grow, and change throughout the show. The playwrights use identifiable life events to paint real woman who are highly recognizable, including a recent divorcee, a new widow, and a woman who was recently let go from her job.
Director Dominik Rebilas and his excellent cast make each woman different and distinguishable. As Randa, the workaholic perfectionist who doesn't quite know what to do with herself now that she's lost her job, Elizabeth Peterson appropriately exhibits obsessive traits and a buttoned-up but always perfect demeanor. Tina Khalil plays Marlafaye, the fun loving, boisterous and recently divorced 50-year-old Texas woman who is seeking revenge on her ex, but underneath we see she is also dealing with a lot of pain. As Dot, Barbara McBain beautifully portrays the oldest woman in the group who was recently widowed and doesn't quite know what to do with herself now that her husband is gone and she is faced with the idea of starting over again. Susan Sindelar is a firecracker as the freewheeling, rambunctious Jinx who is always the life of the party but not quite sure how to care for her older sister who is suffering from Alzheimer's and barely recognizes her.
Rebilas' adept direction ensures the many comical lines and sequences get big laughs without giving short shaft to the serious moments which are highly moving. Brett Aiken's beautiful set realistically creates Randa's Savannah porch where the majority of the action takes place, while his lighting design effectively portrays the various times of day as well as a thunderstorm. Tamara Treat's costumes are a nonstop parade of character-specific designs, including modest and sensible clothing for Randa and wild and colorful designs for Jinx.
The Savannah Sipping Society may not be a perfect play, as most of the plot is predictable and the characters all familiar. However, there are several elements that take the show in an unsuspecting direction. There are also a few moving and poignant moments along with the laugh out loud comedy. Theater Works' production has a great cast and perfectly subtle direction that help smooth over some of the play's shortcomings and combine to beautifully portray the power of friendship.
The Savannah Sipping Society runs through November 12th, 2017, at Theater Works at 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at theaterworks.org or by calling 623 815-7930
Directed by Dominik Rebilas