SAVANNAH loves to sip. Whether it’s our go-cup gumption or the classic mint julep-porch-sittin’ cliché, The Hostess City loves to throw her doors open for company and promptly hand them a refreshing adult beverage.
This weekend, Muse Arts Warehouse hosts the Lowcountry premiere of The Savannah Sipping Society. The first installment in The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s 2016-‘17 season promises plenty of laughs, liquor, and life lessons.
“I was looking for something light, and I saw that the play debuted in the Atlanta area,” director and designer David I.L. Poole recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, why is this play not in Savannah when it’s called Savannah Sipping Society?!’”
Proactive Poole contacted the authors Jones Hope Wooten, an prolific team of playwrights. The trio, dubbed “America’s Playwrights,” are behind such beloved Southern comedies as Dearly Departed, The Red Velvet Cake War, Always a Bridesmaid, and The Dixie Swim Club. Savannah Sipping Society is the latest in their lexicon of deep-fried, funnybone ticklin’ drama.
“I compare it to Designing Women,” Poole explains. “It’s four middle-aged women who are lonely and in Savannah. They’re mostly transplants to Savannah with the exception of one. They all get together for for happy hours.”
The fab four initially meet at a yoga studio (the ladies, all new to the exercise form, are dismayed to find that “hot yoga” doesn’t mean “hot people yoga”). After sweating out all the toxins, the gals decide they’ve earned a cocktail, and their very first pop-up happy hour occurs.
The Society includes Randa, a driven architect and workaholic who recently experienced a significant career derailment. Now, the independent woman is wondering what it is she really wants in life.
Dot, a recent widow, was banking on a laidback retirement with her husband, but now, she must face a new beginning.
Good ol’ Texan Marlafaye just lost her husband to the embrace of a young dental hygienist, and she’s in Savannah to get revenge on the cheater and his 23-year-old flame.
Last but not least, Jinx, a nomadic newcomer to Savannah, is a hair stylist by day and life coach to the women by night. However, Jinx shows that she may need to take her own advice every once in awhile.
As they gush over cocktails on Randa’s Victorian veranda, the women bind together as they enter their own new beginnings, stumbling into misadventure every step of the way.
“That’s where it all stems from,” Poole says. “They’re all looking to improve their lives, and they go on these adventures in Savannah. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of drinking and talking about men. It’s a hoot.”
Virginia-based Jones Hope Wooten’s plays are set all over the South, and there were a couple of points in their scripted Savannah that Poole, through correspondence, altered to be more authentic to the area.
“From their point of view, it captures our city and these four women’s lives,” he says. “It’s very sitcom-y. Think of it as a pilot episode of a sitcom set in Savannah.”
From the initial hot yoga experiment, the ladies try “bucket list” activities together, including going to a Renaissance Fair, going salsa dancing, and (ack...) swimming in the Savannah River (kids, do not try this at home).
“It’s got a Designing Women, Golden Girls, Sex and the City vibe to it,” Poole describes.
The Savannah Sipping Society stars Julie Kessler, Mickey Dodge, Laura Dutton, Casey Bessette, and Lynne Jones. Poole is excited to welcome Dutton back to Savannah.
“She was away for about 15 years and moved back to the area, came out for audutions, and she’s hysterical.”
Dodge, Kessler and Jones are Collective Face Theatre Ensemble members, and Bessette is a SCAD graduate student.
There are plenty of opportunities to see Savannah Sipping Society, running Friday, September 9 to September 25. Enjoy a champagne reception catered by Joe’s Homemade Café on opening night. On September 21, it’s a special Ladies’ Night, so round up the girls and head to Muse.
“This is a great way to begin our season,” Poole affirms. “It’s a fun-filled play and people have a great time.”