One of the great things about living in the Quad Cities is that at this time of year, you are never more than a ten minute drive from a playhouse putting on a good show.

Case in point: I bus greeted for Quad City Music Guild’s production of West Side Story last night, and then jumped in my car and still made it to Playcrafter’s Barn Theater for the 7:30 curtain for Dixie Swim Club.

Directed by Jacque Cohoon, working from a script by Jones, Hope, and Wooten, Dixie Swim Club is about a group of five women who rent out the same beach house every year, on the year in August. We meet them when they’re about 44 years old.

I know you may think that this show, with a cast entirely of women, is only for women. Not true. I’ve got a couple of groups of friends from high school and college I get together with about once a year. Cubs games. Watching the Academy Awards. Blue Cat. QC Family Entertainment Center. They’ve come out to see me when I’m onstage at Music Guild, Genesius Guild, the former Harrison Hilltop, Playcrafter’s or Richmond Hill. My Bachelor Party and wedding last year. Our famous Minnesota trip of 2009. The trip to Six Flags Great America in 2004. When we get together, it’s like old times. And we bicker. And we get up in each other’s business. And we heal old wounds. We support each other through hard times. And every year has a new dynamic all its own.

Such is the case for Sheree, Lexie, Vernadette, Jeri Neal, and Mandi. Their weekend at the beach house is spent talking about boys, talking about food, drinking mamosas, mixing martinis, and going to the beach to swim.

All had swum on the same team in high school. This bond sustains them for the rest of their lives.

Vernadette is the accident proned one, and has various injuries from one year to the next.

Sheree is the super-organized friend, booking the beach house diligently every year on the year. She likes to have everyone try the fresh berries. Each woman spits them out promptly.

Lexie…. how best to describe Lexie? I mean, I have some pretty young kids who read my Facebook page. Lexi is a woman who changes her hair almost as often as she changes husbands. And she changes her hair pretty often. Always on the lookout for a change in the menu…. and she likes having what her friends are having.

Finally, there’s Jeri Neal. Much like my own mom, Jeri Neal left the convent and got pregnant in her forties. She doesn’t tell her friends when she leaves the convent… she just shows up eight months pregnant. And proceeds to go into labor during their weekend at the beach house in North Carolina.

 

The laughs in this play come early and often. Ever the trustworthy, Lexie allegedly flirted with Sheree’s husband. The other three girls delicately try to resolve the eminent conflict. Vernadette has an absolute loser of a husband, and two free-loading kids, one of which is in and out of prison. Jackie gets some of the most priceless one-liners in the show.

Lighting design- have to reference Bill Pfeiffer. Because he did a great job showing the beach house in good weather and bad. Ominous backlighting suggests a hurricane approaching, as Sheree scrambles to pack first aid kits and luggage in the event they have to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

It’s easy to be taken by surprise when the play becomes emotional in the second act. There’s a flash forward to when the women are in their fifties, and then another one to when they’re closing in on eighty. Now, it would be wrong of me to go into too much detail about the second act… but much like the movie La La Land, you get so wrapped up in the humor of it that the pathos takes you by surprise. I’ll only supply this detail; there was a moment where one of them is suffering from memory loss (perhaps Alzheimer’s), and she asks the other friends if she had a good life.

That’s what this play is about. Making memories. Protecting memories. Saving memories for the one who can’t save them for herself.

Dixie Swim Club is a very sweet play. I know there are multitudes of options in July. But if you find yourself in Moline this weekend, at maximum you’re about a ten minute drive from Playcrafter’s.

Greg O'Neill is a Spanish teacher at Lewistown Community High School. A native of Rock Island, he currently resides between there and Lewistown. He has been onstage at Quad City Music Guild, Playcrafter's Barn Theatre, Richmond Hill Theatre, and Genesius Guild. He got his start at St. Joseph's Catholic Church when he appeared in Tales of Wonder at the age of eleven. He enjoys movies, theatre, books, baseball, and writing stories.