Female-centric Ross Valley Players’ show is a fun-filled romp

Some of the jokes are more hoary than the play’s middle-aged characters, four Southern women who want to overhaul their depressing, sometimes humdrum lives.

Savannah’s so-called sipping society consists of (from left) Randa (Monica Snell), Marla Faye (Heather Shepardson), Dot (Mary Bishop) and Jinx (Sumi Narendran Cardinale). Photo by Robin Jackson.

But I laughed out loud at the one-liners anyway, multiple times — and even more so at the slapstick physical stuff in “The Savannah Sipping Society.”

I also adored the colorful costumes designed for the Ross Valley Players production by Miles Smith, especially those at the beginning of Act 2 reflecting Renaissance Fair garb.

Over all, though, the uneven RVP comedy was like watching a TV sitcom, albeit with live audience supplying guffaws instead of canned laugh-track.

With recognizable members of the #MeToo movement snickering loudest opening night, obviously delighted to see a female-centric play containing an abundance of male-bashing.

The play’s storyline isn’t exactly earth-shaking: A quartet of females nurture a friendship via weekly happy hours that ultimately transcend a torturous yoga class (“Lucifer’s little sweatshop”) and life situations fraught with difficulty.

Although their characters tend to be more cartoonish than real, each of the actors is first class — although Marla Faye (hilariously portrayed by Heather Shepardson), a loudmouthed divorcee whose cheapest thrill is to verbally shred her ex-husband, gets the lioness’ share of the funny lines.

Commonalities within the group are not, well, common — save, perhaps, their penchant for sipping alcohol.

Consider, to prove my point, that Randa (played by Monica Snell) is a hotshot architect fired after a public confrontation spurred by her being passed over for promotion; Dot (Mary Bishop) is a recent widow losing her sight; and Jinx (Sumi Narendran Cardinale) is a gypsy-like beautician whose yen to become a life coach turns the others into test cases.

The jokes — as might be expected from three writers who cut their teeth on successful TV series (including a male alumnus of “The Golden Girls”) — can be rather caustic.

Such as, “He asked me his ideal weight and I told him four pounds including urn.”

Or, “Women who put on a few pounds live longer than the men who call it to their attention.”

Or this description of an overdressed Randa: “You look like a disco ball with feet.”

Some lines, however, pinpoint character: “Instead of cleaning my house, I just turn off the lights.”

In the final analysis, “The Savannah Sipping Society” is a lighthearted, lightweight romp from the keyboards of Jessie Jones, Jamie Wooten and Nicholas Hope, authors of “The Dixie Swim Club,” which the RVP successfully produced during its 2012-13 season.

The playwriting trio clearly has developed a following: It’s crafted 18 plays that have resulted in roughly 5,000 productions across the globe.

“Savannah,” ably guided by Tiny Taylor, artistic director of Berkeley’s Theatre Lunatico, utilizes a winning tactic, separating scenes with fourth-wall-breaking monologues that fast-forward the plot and act as continuity.

The play’s funniest scene might be an early one in which three of the characters gruffly woman-handle a doll intended as a therapy tool. But pathos isn’t totally absent, particularly via the plot device of Jinx’s offstage sister fading into Alzheimer’s.

 Is “Savannah,” which had been staged last year at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, the best comedy I’ve ever seen? No way. The best Ross Valley Players’ production? No way.

A couple of fun-filled hours? Way.

“The Savannah Sipping Society” will run at The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, through Aug. 12. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $12-$27. Information: (415) 456-9555 or www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →