THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY review. Comedy co-authored by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, Jamie Wooten. Direction Judith Herbig. Set Barry Altwig. Lighting Finn McCormick. Presented by Milnerton Players at Milnerton Playhouse until 12 October 2019.

SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews

Described as a laugh-a-minute comedy, The Savannah Sipping Society (TSSS) is more a poignant look at three lonely women after their lives take an unexpected dip. It tells the story of how they learn to throw off the glums to start living joyfully again. The trio’s heartaches are not unique – they mirror countless others. However co-authors Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten relate their stories with such sensitivity and humour, TSSS brings a message of hope to anyone passing through similar emotional turmoil.

Randa, Marlafaye, Jinx and Dot in The Savanna Sipping Society. Picture: Jane Amory
Randa, Marlafaye, Jinx and Dot in The Savanna Sipping Society. Picture: Jane Amory

A joyous rebirth

We first meet Randa, Dot and Marlafaye in a state of collapse after a body-breaking workout at Namaste Yoga Studio. The trio are middle aged (what a horrid term for women past their 21st birthday bloom) and we learn Randa (53) (Kim Coetzer), possessed by a strong sense of logic, was a workaholic architect.

After successfully completing a complex design Randa, instead of being offered a partnership, had been shown the door. Hurt, she moved to Savannah and spent her payout buying and renovating her beautiful home.

Next we encounter Dot (69) (Roz Fitzgerald). She and her husband had recently moved to Savannah anticipating enjoying their twilight years together. His sudden death left his spunky widow in a town where she barely knows a soul.

Number three of the three is irrepressible Marlafaye (53) (Marelise Brand). From the South (please could she speak more slowly), she’s pretty cut up about her husband running off with a 23 year-old hygienist and is bent on revenge. When it happens, wow!, it perks her up no end.

These women, equally stressed but by different troubles, do have one thing in common – they want to shake off the past but don’t know how. That’s before Dot invites Jinx (Petra Baker) to (lots of) sundowners on Randa’s superbly appointed veranda. Jinx, a glamorous ball of fire, offers her services as a life coach expert to plot roads that will bring the trio, and (unexpectedly) herself, to new beginnings.

Around Jinx’s plans, plots, exploits and dynamic personality, the women exchange their dour lives to ones of excitement, interest, fun on Valentine’s night, and new lasting friendships.

Director Judith Herberg has appreciated the psychology co-authors built into the gentle Savannah Sipping Society tale. The playwrights understand that inner confusion women suffer when circumstances, beyond their control, cut their feet from under them.

And Herberg, calling on her expertise and intellect carefully guided each player to draw real life heart-warming portraits.

Adding much to this production’s success is Barry Altwig’s classic design for Randa’s veranda. Altwig’s eye for detail is again evident by matched cane furniture, ivy covered trellises, flower baskets, pictures, light fittings as well as well placed doors. Every detail going towards creating such a sense of America’s Deep South he deserves a CATA award.

What: The Savannah Sipping Society Milnerton Players
When: Until 12 October 2019
Where: Milnerton Playhouse Cape Town
Tickets: bookings@milnertonplayers.com, 082 267 1061
WS