‘Time Out’ at Millbrook

Millbrook Playhouse kicked off its 55th season of professional summer theatre Thursday night, hosting a Clinton County Economic Partnership ‘Time Out.’ More than 90 Partnership members and guests enjoyed tours of the barn theatre and a sneak preview performance of the Playhouse’s first musical of the season, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Millbrook’s Savannah Sipping Society

is a ‘bubbly’ and heartfelt treat

Randa Covington (Gerri Weagraff), a tightly wound, middle-aged career woman, has just been laid off, following a very public outburst when she gets passed over for a promotion. So, she decides to make a change in her life. First step? Attend hot yoga. It’s what the young people do.

Set in Savannah, Ga., Millbrook Playhouse’s production of “The Savannah Sipping Society,” written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, celebrates the lives of women over 40 trying to find friendship while embracing their independence.

Before Randa knows it, she’s sitting outside the class with two other middle-aged women, gasping for air and sweating.

A good crowd enjoyed food, drink and conversation at Millbrook Playhouse’s outdoor courtyard during the recent Clinton County Economic Partnership Time Out event. On right, Millbrook Playhouse Artist Director David Leidholdt, on stage, welcomes the Time Out crowd and talks about the 55th season.

“Who knew we signed up for Lucifer’s Little Sweat Shop?” quips Dot Haigler, played by the witty Joan Crooks, fanning herself.

So begins the friendship of Randa, Dot and the loud, bodacious Texas transplant Marlafaye Mosley, played by an enthusiastic Georgia Fender. Self-proclaimed life coach and cosmetologist Jinx Jenkins, played by the effervescent Kristen Egenes, joins their group later, at the first impromptu happy hour of the “Savannah Sipping Society.”

Drawn together by their loneliness–Randa is unemployed and unmarried, Dot’s a recent widow, Marlafaye a divorcee, and Jinx a caretaker to her ailing sister–and desire to talk, the women agree to partake in Jinx’s life coach services for six months. If they don’t see results during that time, they don’t have to pay.

Savannah is truly a laugh-a-minute show, with characters delivering witty one-liners and putting on hilarious bits, like Jinx having Marlafaye role-play talking to her ex-husband, the cheating, lying Waylon, who left her for a 23-year-old dental hygienist. “Now every time I brush my teeth, I think of them sneakin’ around!” she says.

Randa is the lucky (or unlucky) Waylon impersonator, sticking on a baseball cap and stuffing a pillow under her shirt, because “you need a spare tire,” says Marlafaye. I was in stitches as “Waylon” and Marlafaye faced off, a duel finally ending in Marlafaye chasing a terrified Randa around the house.

And there are other shenanigans. A swimming trip turns into a snapping turtle fest, salsa dancing ends in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and a surprise party for Randa’s cantankerous grandmother takes a fatal turn. But trust me, you’ll be laughing during all of this.

Through it all, I felt like a fly on the wall at an exceedingly silly, fun and hilarious sleep-over and gossip fest. But there is sadness, too. Dot faces a growing vision problem, Jinx’s sister’s condition deteriorates, Marlafaye can’t shake her ex and Randa struggles to find a job. The show, and each character’s performance, is grounded by its heart — the discovery by each woman that she has found a family in the others.

Though there were some flubbed lines, and Southern accents wavered in and out at times, each woman maintained and committed to a strong character. Fender’s Marlafaye was a bawdy, brassy treat, upped by her physical comedy and twangy Texas accent. And Crooks’ Dot was a convincing “grandma” of the group, switching between sweet wisdom and innocent, silly joy.

Covington played Randa excellently as the always logical “straight woman” in the comedy group, with very amusing results. But Egenes pulled heartstrings when her chipper demeanor as Jinx gave way to pain underneath.

Part Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood and part “Steel Magnolias,” “The Savannah Sipping Society” is a rollicking good “happy hour” (and a half) with a heart of gold (whiskey, that is).

Show times for “The Savannah Sipping Society”are 7:30 p.m. tonight and Sunday; Wednesday through Saturday, June 13 to 16. Matinees are at 2 p.m. this Sunday, Wednesday, June 13 and Sunday, June 17.

The first late-night Courtyard Cabaret will be held tonight, after the show, with songs, skits and a few surprises on the theme “Meeting Millbrook.”

For ticket information and reservations, call 570-748-8083, visit www.millbrookplayhouse.net, or stop by the box office.

— SARAH PAEZ

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Sarah Paez is a reporter for The Lock Haven Express.

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