J. A. Di Bello’s Review of The Savannah Sipping Society

 September 13, 2019

Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop

If there’s one sure-fire thing to say about Director Harold Tighe, it’s that he sure knowns how to throw a rip-roarin’, knee-slappin’ party. And if the digs of Sullivan County don’t fit your fancy, there’s a host of intriguing locations south of that ol’ Mason-Dixon Line. That’s right. South of the Mason-Dixon is the land nostalgically called “Dixie.” And in the heart of Dixie is one of Georgia’s juiciest peaches: Historic Savannah, currently brought face-to-face on the Rivoli stage by the notorious women of The Savannah Sipping Society.

The playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have taken on the business of supplying Mr. Tighe and the talented members of the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop with a blended assortment of 4 historic “Southern Belles.” They may not be fully historic, but from where they sip, they can see it!

The four thrown together by circumstance, happenstance or, maybe even, divine intervention (Dionysys),form an ad hoc society dedicated to the proposition: “… knowing life is better when you have someone to talk to, to laugh with, and share a glass with every now and then!”

Each of these freewheeling, hyperbolic characters has lost the man of her life, either through death, divorce or unashamed tomcatin’. As a packin’ charmer, straight from the Big D, Heather Strauss portrays MarlaFaye. Her husband left town with a twenty-three-year old dental hygienist, affectionately referred to as “swish and spit.” A charter member of this hilarious group of guzzlers is a kind Dot, effectively functioning in the Society by Lynne Porter. She viciously berates her deceased husband for waiting too long before retirement. Complementing that role with give-an’-take dialogue is the character Jinx, efficiently brought to the forefront of the actions by Felice Schwed.

Ellen Pavioff is exceptionally convincing in her role of Randa, realizing her hard work and sacrifice has resulted in a shallow existence. She’s neglected the important things! There also the downright hilarity of the situational consequences of the episode with Gran’ma Cordelia, played by a fully charged Constance Slater. Sorry, no spoilers from this writer.

Initially, it appeared that the four ladies of Savannah peaches were confirmed, unadulterated alcoholics. However, after close examination: not credible. None attend meetings!

Essentially, Mr. Tighe has assembled a fine cast and crew, presenting on this opening night an entertaining and worthy production. Costume design by Heather Strauss is outstanding and playing another role as set designer and set builder is the legitimate jack of all theatrical trades Harold Tighe. By extending the stage down right and left into the house, he perfectly brings the audience to the point of experiencing interaction with the characters on stage.

That concept and utilization brought out an additional element that needs attention, i.e., audio expertise. While on the extended stage or apron (all the women by the way have soliloquys), it was easy to hear and understand the dialogue.  Each was able to enunciate and project adequately. When the actors were on the main stage proper, use of the current sound system muffled and distorted their voices, causing some audience members to whisper, “…what’d she say?” Interestingly, the sound issue did not seem to be a problem with Heather Strauss.

The house was partially roped off. Restricting audience seating to a greater extent would increase the interaction and assist all in receiving the full benefit of this hilarious production.

The Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop’s production of The Savannanh Sipping Society will continue its run at the Rivoli Theatre through September 22. Information and tickets are available at 845-435-5336 or https://www.scdw.net/