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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Walpole Footlighters transported their opening night audience from the quiet suburbs to a perfectly-kept veranda as they watched the wild lives of four middle-aged women unfold in “The Savannah Sipping Society.” The Jones Hope Wooten comedy, directed by Wendy Stuart, held its opening night on October 20, and the audience fell in love with the production’s unique characters.
The play follows the friendship of Randa, Dot, Marlafaye, and Jinx, as they rediscover themselves over happy-hour drinks and daring outings in the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia.
Cindy Bell played Randa, a perfectionist and the sole employee to be “laid off” at her firm, where she worked as an architect. Peeved by a woman at the grocery store with a few too many items in the express lane, Randa’s uptight personality at the start of the production takes the backseat when she befriends the woman who ignored the sign for five items or less.
Bell flawlessly embodied the role, bringing Randa’s hatred for her vile grandmother and perfect hostess skills to life. Throughout the production, Bell perfectly represented Randa’s complex character and made the audience feel as if they were socializing with cocktails on Randa’s veranda, too.
The extremely talented Evie Rayburg took on the role of Dot, the former French teacher who is still struggling to put her life back together after the death of her husband. Without Dot, who invites Jinx, the grocery line wrongdoer, to the get together, the women would not have seen such a turnaround in their lives.
After an accident one week before the show, Kay Carter Blaha, who was originally to play Dot, could not appear for the performance. Showing both professionalism and fearlessness, Rayburg stepped in as Dot with just a week to prepare for opening night. While Rayburg was not completely off book for the evening, her comfort on the stage and knack for acting made her onstage glances at the script mostly unnoticeable.
Cynthia Wegel became the boisterous and hilarious Texan, Marlafaye, who relocates to Savannah after her husband left her for a 23-year-old dental hygienist. Marlafaye provides many of the production’s laughs as Wegel perfectly delivered one-liners, like “Instead of cleaning I just turn off the lights,” and asking the group of women: “Did you know women who carry a little extra weight tend to live longer than the men who bring it to their attention?”
Over the summer, the Footlighters lost a longtime member, Barbara Pettis, who was involved in the Footlighters community for over 45 years. Wegel, Pettis’ daughter, dedicated her sensational performance to her mother.
Playing Jinx, the one to tie the whole group together as their life coach, was Barbara Schapiro. The spunky and daring Jinx inspires the women to try salsa dancing, go on dates, and even take a trip to Paris. Jinx even serves as her own life coach, realizing that with three loyal friends by her side, she can stop moving so frequently and stay right in Savannah.
Schapiro brought a fresh and energetic vibe to the Footlighters as she took on Jinx. She beautifully portrayed the range of emotions Jinx showed throughout the play, making the audience believe they needed her as a life coach, too.
Like all of the Footlighters productions, “The Savannah Sipping Society” was carefully and perfectly executed, bringing out the unique qualities of each character.
“The Savannah Sipping Society” will be performed on October 27, 28, and November 3 and 4 at 8:00 p.m. There will also be 2 p.m. matinees on October 29 and November 5.