'The Savannah Sipping Society' has friends at the forefront

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With a smooth southern drawl, "The Savannah Sipping Society" at The Phipps tackles the changes and opportunities of later life with love, laughs and drinks.

The play follows four middle-aged women as they are thrown great life changes at a time when they felt their lives were set.

From the first monologue, the tone of the play is well established. These are four women who face their problems with lots of laughs, never taking themselves too seriously. The cast of four actors, with a quick guest appearance by Karla Haas, hold the stage easily, bringing their characters to life in full. With a smaller cast, the audience shares the intimacy of the characters' relationships with each other. Audience members come to know and love the women as they do the same with each other.

Mary Beth Arthaud portrays Jinx, a pioneering life coach who steers the other three women, different in personality but not heart, through their crises, often avoiding her own. Though she falters at times, she cares for the women and their happiness, something Arthaud plays with depth.

Jennifer Allton plays Randa who owns the picture-perfect veranda that hosts most of the scenes. Her perfectionist personality provides some of the initial tension for the play, and creates many of the laughs.

Darcy McDowell brings Marla Faye to life, with a personality and stage presence as big as the state of Texas she once called home.

Rounding out the group, Megan Rowe takes on the role of Dot, bringing a wildness to the widow that is unexpected, but definitely not unappreciated.

Everything unfolds with the backdrop of a classic southern porch, complete with wicker and flowers baskets. The set stays the same through the scenes, and it has no reason to change. The setting evokes Savannah so well one can almost feel the heat.

Though comedy is at the forefront, "The Savannah Sipping Society" also takes on the difficult realities of life, from losing a sense of self to losing loved ones. With the connection developed between audience and characters, the losses hit at the heart. These issues are handles with grace, positivity, and perhaps most importantly, a bit of laughter.

The play is a reminder that despite the tribulations of life, good friends can get each other through anything.

"The Savannah Sipping Society" runs through Oct. 1, with shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at The Phipps Center for the Arts, http://thephipps.org/.