And then there's the marvelous Sheila D. Rose as Vernadette, who declares that the greatest moment of her post-swim career was buying "fat pants and a deep-fat fryer." Why she sports various casts, crutches and even a clown suit in the play is part of the silliness, but Rose gives Vernadette, the one with the worst marriage and rottenest kids, a sort of Roseanne-like bark. Sure, Vernadette could be jealous of the others, whose sons aren't on parole and whose house hasn't been foreclosed, but her give-a-shit is plumb wore out. And don't even try to keep her from eating biscuits and gravy. Verndatte's second-act speech on the value of biscuits to the Southern diet is a funny-angry ode to flour power.

First produced in 2008, The Dixie Swim Club is now a favorite in regional and community theaters, with hundreds of productions over the past two years. (Theatre Arlington's about to do it, too.) It's as if the playwrights—Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten (one woman, two men)—set out to construct the most commercial two-hour comedy with an all-woman cast since Robert Harling's Magnolias. Five women, one set, and one distinguishing characteristic per woman. Give the gals a reason to get together repeatedly (in Magnolias, it's weddings and funerals) and let the fireworks and waterworks commence.

Hands down, the cast of The Dixie Swim Club is the funniest all-woman ensemble this season.
Rooney Dobbs
Hands down, the cast of The Dixie Swim Club is the funniest all-woman ensemble this season.

In the final scene of Dixie Swim, when the ladies are in their 70s, very little has changed about them. Sheree is still the super-duper organizer, even with a titanium hip. Lexie, the merry divorcee, is still trawling for a hot date with younger gents. Jeri Neal is only a smidge more worldly wise. And right up to the minute the lights go out for the last time in that beach house, we're right there with them, happy to share in their celebration of sisterhood. As all women know, having girlfriends who stick by you, sink or swim, can be a lifesaver.

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