‘Swim Club’ debuts with a splash at Port City

‘Swim Club’ debuts with a splash at Port City
From left, Tina Anderson as Sheree Hollinger, Barbara Hayes as Lexie Richards, Gayle Grimes as Vernadette Simms, Laura Champe Mitchell as Jeri Neal McFeeley and Kacie Greenwood as Dinah Grayson star in “The Dixie Swim Club” at Port City Playhouse. (Eddie Page)

For whatever reason the thought of attending a class reunion can turn even the most sensible woman into a bundle of nerves. Will an old flame turn up? How can I lose 10 pounds in two weeks? What will I wear? And should I book a hair and Botox appointment on the same day?

Mercifully none of these options are considered by “The Dixie Swim Club,” whose reunion is an all-girl affair in this rollicking bit of sitcom fun from Port City Playhouse.

Faithfully returning to a modest cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, five former swim team members make an annual pilgrimage to recapture their glory days. And though one of the ladies prefers to vamp for men at the fruit stand, swapping tattoo views for blueberries, the women are mostly there to rekindle their friendships.

Sheree Hollinger (Tina Anderson) is the group’s ex officio life coach, a no-nonsense drill sergeant cum cheerleader with a knack for organizing and a penchant for bizarre health food munchies. Her diet is much to the horror of cohort Lexie Richards (Barbara Hayes), an endearing mantrap dripping with Southern charm and sass. She calls Sheree’s seaweed rolls with bean paste, goji berries and heron oil “regurgitated ferret food.” A self-acknowledged proponent of three-year marriages and facelifts, she cycles through spouses like a knife through butter.

From left, Kacie Greenwood stars as Dinah Grayson and Barbara Hayes stars as Lexie Richards in “The Dixie Swim Club” at Port City Playhouse. (Eddie Page)

“The trouble with husbands,” she admonishes, “is they always say they’ll die for you … but they never do!”

Her counterpoint, Dinah Grayson (Kacie Greenwood), a spine-straight Atlanta corporate lawyer, prefers the boardroom to the bedroom and martinis to men.

Jeri Neal McFeeley (Laura Champe Mitchell), who “genuflects at the sight of Miracle Whip,” is a nun reaching out for a second chance at life outside the convent.  Her polar opposite is the wisecracking Vernadette Simms (Gayle Nichols-Grimes), the accident-prone, perpetually unemployed housewife. “Vern” can be counted on to update the ladies with annual reports on her children’s incarcerations and sermons on the joys of biscuit baking.

The humorous yet sweetly sentimental play — by the veteran comedy writing team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten (you’ll love the comic slugfest if you’re a fan of Wooten’s long-running series “The Golden Girls” — covers three decades of the women’s personal triumphs and failures, marking time with cocktail-fueled weekends of swill-and-tell.

The entire cast is up for the snappy repartee. Nichols-Grimes steals the show with her deadpan delivery, and director Eddie Page, a self-confessed veteran of “guys” weekends at Nags Head, taps into the zeitgeist handily to deliver an evening as smooth and intoxicating as a well-chilled martini served straight up.

“The Dixie Swim Club” runs at Port City Playhouse through March 10 at The Lab Studio Theatre at Convergence, 1819 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria. For tickets and information, visit www.portcityplayhouse.com