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Review: ‘Savannah’ offers familiar ingredients for GCP comedy

THEATER REVIEW

When the awful detail comes out, it gets a big reaction. The revelation comes courtesy of Marlafaye, the wisecracking character in “The Savannah Sipping Society,” who is filling in her newfound single, middle-aged friends — and the audience — on the exploits of her slimy ex-husband. He left her for another woman.

Pictured above: Jayne Day, Wendy Snyder-Crabtree, Elizabeth Woods-Childers and Anna Martinez in ‘The Savannah Sipping Society.’ Photo: Good Company Players

A much younger woman.

She’s a 23-year-old dental hygienist, Marlafaye reveals.

“Oh my,” mutters a sympathetic and obviously appalled older woman sitting in front of me at the 2nd Space Theatre, caught up in the injustice of it all.

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This is a play that knows its target audience.

Mind you, the new woman in Marlafaye’s husband’s life isn’t just a dozen years younger than him; she could practically be his granddaughter. And she isn’t a systems analyst, or janitor, or Amazon line worker, or even a dentist; no, she’s a young and vivacious dental hygienist, with all the stereotypical assumptions that involves: perfect smile, adorable Southern accent, perky admonitions about flossing, lots of opportunities for jokes about spitting and rinsing.

Yep, this play definitely knows its target audience, including which buttons to push. Considering that I’m not in the 35-plus-women demographic, you might want to toss my thoughts out the window. But here goes anyway:

Good Company is fond of works byJessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, the three-member playwriting team that has cranked out the women’s-ensemble hits “The Dixie Swim Club,” “The Red Velvet Cake War” and now “Savannah.” Whenever I see those three names on the program, I wince a little because I immediately think of either 1) playwriting by committee; or 2) playwriting by paint-by-numbers; but no matter what I think of the plays themselves, the audience seems to love them.

In this offering, the storyline revolves around the uptight Randa (played by Anna Martinez), a career-focused single woman (no time for a relationship) who has lost her job as a Savannah architect and is stressing about it. Through a chance encounter at yoga, she connects with two new friends who are also single: Marlafaye (Jayne Day); and Dot Haigler (Wendy Snyder-Crabtree), who moved to Savannah to enjoy retirement with her husband and then lost him to a heart attack.

Into this mix comes the energetic Jinx (Elizabeth Woods-Childers), who brings the women even closer together when she makes it a project to improve all their lives.


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I don’t think the results in “Savannah” are awful, just a little tedious and predictable at times. The play’s calculated mix of earnest monologues, Southern aphorisms, corny one-liners, boozy interludes, good-natured man bashing, female bonding and a hint of tragedy comes together fairly smoothly for the most part. And I’ll freely admit: There can be moments of genuine caring, depth and humor. Director Julia Reimer does a nice job shaping them.

The cast has nice chemistry together. Day’s comic timing is particularly sharp and effective. She brings a nice edge to the character that transcends the writing. A weak spot overall in this production is the Southern accents. Martinez and Woods-Childers have some endearing moments, but they get a little overdramatic and broad at times.

David Pierce’s genteel set beckons the audience to the South, and Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes (including a sock-it-to-you leopard-print salsa dress) adds a nice visual flair.

In the end, I suspect a show like this is review-proof. I don’t mind. I’m happy for the folks who get caught up in its genial charms. And for those fans whose dental offices boast young hygienists, I wouldn’t worry too much: The odds of losing an obnoxious, obtuse, non-wealthy, jerky husband at a cleaning are lower, as they say in the South, than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.


Show info

‘The Savannah Sipping Society,’ through Aug. 11, 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave. Tickets are $20 general, $18 students and seniors.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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