Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Savannah Sipping Society
The Adobe Theater
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther


Lorri Layle Oliver, Mona Malec, Holly Deuel Gilster,
and Gail Spidle

Photo by George Williams
Laughter and summer breezes waft through the 60-year-old Adobe Theater, a fitting venue for a lighthearted exploration of things lost and found in The Savannah Sipping Society directed by Pete Parkin.

Four Southern women meet cute at a crossroads: Randa has lost a job, Dot a husband, Marlafaye a cheatin' husband, and Jinx is about to lose her sister to Alzheimer's. To distract from her grief, Jinx (Holly Deuel Gilster) will practice her new life coaching skills on the other three. Great fun ensues, and we get to watch four grown women with nothing much in common decide that life doesn't end where your comfort zone leaves off.

From Randa's veranda, they plot their escape from same-old. Randa (Mona Malec) is an architect passed over for promotion in favor of a 30-year-old man. Randa is uptight and needs her friends to shake her loose. Her put-together preppy look can't keep her emotions from unraveling. As Randa, Malec does a relatable job of appearing to be in control while slowly losing her mind over losing her job. When she finally gets a grip, her giddy smile is pure gold.

As soon as Marlafaye (Lorri Layle Oliver), the liquor sales rep, pulls a bottle of bourbon from her magic satchel, we're in for some belly laughs. She's a redheaded Texas gal and every story has a punchline. Oliver brings sass and brass to her role as hell-raiser, along with some darling outfits (she is responsible for the costumes with Gilster's help). In a way, the action whirls around her because she seems to have no Achilles heel. Until she does. The night the ladies dare each other to go on Valentine's Day dates finds Marlafaye fumbling the ball.

Dot (Gail Spidle) is miffed at her deceased husband for waiting so long to retire. Now he's gone and she's afraid the best years of her life will never start. (With these three amigas, she needn't worry.) Spidle's droll delivery contrasts with her elegant looks to create a character that makes the audience lean forward to catch her next line. She is effortlessly funny, has a genuine Georgia accent, and looks right at home on the veranda and in flowery dresses.

Gilster as Jinx takes the others under her wing—and lets us wonder when she will let someone do the same for her. We know this woman: the selfless friend who has the bright ideas and can put them into action, who doesn't break a sweat, and always says, "I'm fine!" when asked how she's doing. Gilster lets us see she's human. Her Jinx is strong but not brittle. When she finally loses her sister, Jinx resists the pull of her friends only a little, so that when she acquiesces it is all the sweeter. As an actor, Gilster makes that sweetness possible and plausible.

One of Jinx's schemes is to surprise Randa's fault-finding grandmama with a 91st birthday party so the old bat will reward Randa with enough money to pay her mortgage. Set painter and props master Linda Wilson ably if all too briefly fills the role of Randa's grandmother.

Petifogger (sic) is responsible for the inviting veranda as set and lighting designer, and someday I will find out who that is and if the spelling is intentionally incorrect or if it is misspelled only in the program.

Make The Savannah Sipping Society a girls' night out or just a welcome respite from the monsoon. These four women will make it worth coming out in the rain.

Through September 3, 2017, at The Adobe Theater, 9813 4th St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Friday-Saturday 7:30 pm, Sun. 2 pm Tickets: $17, Discount $14 (Seniors, Students, ATG Members, Military, First Responders), PWYW Thursday August 24. For information and tickets, visit adobetheater.org, or call 505-898-9222


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