It’s been true for decades, if not centuries, practically becoming a rite of passage. College friends promise to stay in touch after graduation, most knowing deep in their hearts it just won’t happen. Sometimes a group defies the odds and maintains contact for a few years before the busyness of life gets in the way, causing the visits to become phone calls, which become emails, which go longer and longer unanswered. One day you realize you’ve been out of touch so long you can’t even call yourselves friends anymore. It’s almost without exception. Almost. The women of The Sweet Delilah Swim Club are the happy anomaly. Once teammates on their college swim team, this group of five women keep their promise to stick together by meeting every August for a long weekend in the same Outer Banks cottage, the Sweet Delilah.
The good folks at the Mid-Ohio Valley Players in Marietta do a marvelous job telling the story of Sheree, Lexie, Dinah, Vernadette, and Jeri-Neal, lifelong friends who only see each other once a year. The true beauty of this play is how dedicated these women are to each other despite how completely different they are from each other. They fight like sisters, but they love like sisters too, and support each other no matter what. It’s just a beautiful story produced in an equally beautiful way by director Rod Poling and his stellar cast.
Leslie Dailey McGoron is just terrific as Sheree, the group mom, or, more accurately, the team captain. She organizes everything from the cabin reservations (or so she thinks) to the schedule for the weekend, which invariably includes several group swims in the Atlantic Ocean. She even tries to provide the food. The key phrase being tries to, as her friends are just too kind to tell her how much they detest the health food she tries to foist on them.
Amber Nicole Smrek is fantastically shallow as the vain but not vapid Lexie. Seemingly always either getting married or divorced, Lexie is obsessed with doing whatever it takes to stay young. Every year, there’s an informal competition among the others to figure out what new cosmetic surgeries she’s had in the interim.
Nikki Fields is all brass as Dinah, a high-powered attorney from Atlanta. She is equal parts brains and sass and martinis. She never fails to tell her friends exactly what she thinks, no matter how delicate the situation.
Vanessa Rake is strong as Vernadette, the hard-luck member of the group who shows up each year with a different injury. Her bad luck extends to her choice in men and even her children. Her husband, when he’s around, is basically glued to the couch, her son’s greatest accomplishment is being named inmate of the month, and her daughter is a serial cult-joiner. All of this has made Vernadette, to put it mildly, a bit frank.
The last to arrive is the impressive Becca Buck as Jeri-Neal McFeeley, who, as the show opens, has perhaps the biggest news of the entire group. Imagine her friends’ shock when they find she’s traded in her nun’s habit for clothing with a decidedly different purpose.
This play could easily come off as shrill, as the women are constantly bickering, but the actors have such a strong chemistry that it all comes off with the intended tone—good-humored and filled with love. The women are real, and the situations are too, which is what makes the play so rich. And funny. And, like life, sometimes just plain sad.
The curtain goes up on Friday, March 19 at 8:00pm, with subsequent evening performances on March 20, 25, 26, and 27. A matinee will take place on March 21 at 3:00pm. To get your tickets, visit the MOVP’s website. You need to see this show. Bring a friend or two, but one of you should probably bring tissues.