Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have been knocking out laughter filled scenarios for many years. Collectively known as Jones Hope Wooten, they have more the 4,400 productions and 35,000 performances of their combined works occurring around the world, including The Dixie Swim Club and Always a Bridesmaid, both done in recent years at Temple Theatre of Sanford, and The Savannah Sipping Society, which Temple is producing through March 5th.
When the curtain rises, four single middle-aged women discover one another at a yoga studio as each seeks a new lease on life. That is their only commonality. What they find together in each other helps them into find themselves amid lots of laughter, tears, heartbreaks, and heartwarming adventures. That the authors each wrote for TV sitcoms is obvious from the fast delivery, sparky dialogue, and laugh-a-line communication. Hilarity is the name of the game here, and four distinguished actresses play the game to a huge final score.
Craig Rhyne, a director with an impressive resumé, who was brought into Sanford for this show by his favorite performer, Temple Theatre artistic director Peggy Taphorn, guides his characters through a tour de force of comedy and good feelings, and a veritable choreography of gestures and movements. The Savannah Sipping Society is a knee-slapper with a few tears.
Peggy Taphorn brings her lively, spilling-over personality to Randa, a high-reaching architect who just lost her position in a growing company, and realizes her life is now devoid of purpose. Taphorn’s great range allows her to show the complexity of Randa’s losses as well as the depth of her joys and happiness with her new friends.
Dot is played by the inimitable Lynda Clark This role brings Clark’s impeccably comic timing to fore, along with startling body movements and incredibly graceful awkward poses, especially toward the end where she faces a dim future.
Shirley Proctor plays the zaftig gal Marlafaye, a spirited lady whose dentist husband left her for a much younger dental hygienist, so she split from her Texas home and moved to Savannah to start anew while planning retribution on her former old man. Proctor works up a gleeful evil telling of her encounter with her ex on a Valentine’s Day date.
Jinx, the life coach who galvanizes the group into action, is played by delightful Greta Zandstra, whom we recall for her fine work as June in the musical Sanders family, and as Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Her deliberately casual demeanor is almost sassy, and yet Zandstra shows that her character has more dimension than meets the eye.
The entire story takes place in a marvelously designed set by Tab May, who has also made excellent use of the stage left niche just outside the proscenium, and within the stage has created the perfect veranda of Randa’s perfect house with its perfect decor. Up a set of stairs, doors open into the home’s perfect kitchen, and upstage left a set of stairs leads to the front of the house.
Peggy Taphorn and Lynda Clark designed the contemporary and varied costumes for this production. The extrovert Jinx is dressed in outrageous outfits, Randa wears a frock for the Valentine’s Day date, briefly, that’ll knock your socks off, although she and Dot are usually very smartly dressed. Marlafaye’s Valentine’s Day date dress is really stunning.
This show is only running for two more weekends, and is well worth the trip to Sanford, which is just down U.S. 1 from Raleigh.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 16th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald preview by Michelle Bir: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/savannah-sipping-society-opens-at-temple/article_1a948aaa-f38b-11e6-a285-7f4696ad60ed.html.
Temple Theatre presents THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and 23, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 24, 8 p.m. Feb. 25, 2 p.m. Feb. 26 and March 2, 2 and 8 p.m. March 3, 8 p.m. March 4, and 2 p.m. March 5 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.
TICKETS: $25 ($14 students and $21 Lee County teachers/educator and active-duty military personnel), except $21 for adults on Thursday nights and $21 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-774-4155, email@example.com, or http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.
2016-17 MAINSTAGE SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason16-17.php.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Theatre_%28Sanford,_North_Carolina%29.
The Savannah Sipping Society (2016 comedy): http://www.joneshopewooten.com/savannah.htm (official web page) and http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5327 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Craig Rhyne (New York, NY director): https://www.facebook.com/craig.rhyne1 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.