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Savannah Sipping Society Review

Comedy & Connections

Address: 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Barn Theatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center
Ross, CA 94957
Phone: 415-456-9555  ext. 1

The Savannah Sipping Society — Connections Count

Monica Snell as Randa, Heather Sherpardson as Marla Faye, Sumi Narendran Cardinale as Jinx and Mary Bishop as Dot.

Review by Judith M. Wilson
Photos: Robin Jackson

Life has a way of springing surprises on people, and not always in a good way. And so when Dot, Marla Faye and Randa suffer setbacks, they try yoga as a way to cope. It quickly becomes apparent that downward-facing dog and child’s pose aren’t going to do it for these three, and so they decide to try something different and make a date to meet for drinks at Randa’s house. When the appointed day comes, Dot invites another new friend, Jinx, a beautician who soon appoints herself life coach for the others. It’s the beginning of drinks, good times and challenging moments, as the four middle-aged women embark on six months of adventures and search for ways to reinvent their lives and find new directions.

Playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten all have a background in TV sitcoms as well as plays, and it shows, in a play with clever one-liners, tight timing and a quick pace. Much of the play’s success depends on the skills and talents of the four actresses—Mary Bishop as Dot, Sumi Narendran Cardinale as Jinx, Heather Shepardson as Marla Faye (left) and Monico Snell as Randa—they do it beautifully. Each captures the unique personality of her character, and the four as an ensemble demonstrate the special chemistry that often underlies female friendships.

Each woman has her own story. Randa—short for Miranda—is a career-focused architect who has lost her job under less than desirable circumstances, while Dot has been recently widowed and has to abandon the plans she and her husband had for retirement. Marla Faye is new to Savannah, after leaving Texas in the aftermath of her dentist husband’s dumping her for a 23-year-old dental hygienist, and Jinx is a nomad who seems alone and adrift and is unable to find a place to call home. They’re all larger-than-life characters, and as director Tina Taylor points out, it’s a great opportunity for actresses older than 27, because they get to play characters with experience, which gives them substance.

Miles Smith’s costume design suits and amplifies the personalities of the characters. Most of the action takes place at Randa’s home, and Tom O’Brien’s set design has a sense of the elegance that comes with southern hospitality. O’Brien is also responsible for property design, and a doll is the focal point of a scene involving Dot (right).

Overall the play is light, without weighty themes, making it good summer fare. “This is a very sweet play,” says director Tina Taylor, and in many ways it is. However, as she aptly points out, while it embraces the comedy, it also finds heart and soul. That’s because beyond the laughs, it’s about the strong bonds women form and the positive effect of the connections they make as they head down new paths and put the bad times behind them. In the end, everything comes together to create an uplifting play that shows just how valuable friendship really is.

The Savannah Sipping Society runs through Sunday, August 12, at the Barn Theatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross. For tickets and more information, go to www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

The Ross Valley Players 89th Season opens with William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, beginning on September 28. See more about the upcoming season and how to become a subscriber or sponsor at www.rossvalleyplayers.com.