Starting Thursday, Unity Theatre’s 24th season is off to a hilarious start with “The Savannah Sipping Society,” a play filled with laughter, drinks, camaraderie, and all the adventures and inspiration that comes with starting a new life. Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, the comedy premiered in Georgia in 2016 and has quickly gained popularity with audiences throughout the nation. Wooten previously served as a writer and producer of the television show “The Golden Girls” for several seasons, and the three writers have also worked together on numerous comedies for the stage.
“The Savannah Sipping Society” features four middle-aged Southern women, each facing a different struggle, who are brought together by fate. Together, they decide to restart their lives, and over the course of six months filled with laughter, hilarious misadventures, and lots of liquid refreshment, they form lasting bonds and find new confidence.
“It’s a great play about Southern women,” said director Jimmy Phillips, who has worked at Unity as an actor and director since 2002. “They’re women who are surviving divorce, or the death of a spouse, or termination from their job in the middle of their career. So each one of them has their own journey.”
Celeste Roberts, who will be appearing in her fourth Unity production, plays Randa Covington, a devoted businesswoman who has recently lost her job. “I really like [Randa’s] insecurity. There’s just something about her that’s so human,” said Roberts. “She’s devoted her life to her career, and she’s lost that, and so she’s lost. She doesn’t know who she is without her job. So, by taking a chance and broadening her horizons on people that she normally, in her corporate life, probably would never hang out with, she is opening herself up to discovering things about herself.”
Lisa Thomas, a long-time actress at Unity and the theater’s General Manager, plays Jinx Jenkins, the group’s life coach who encourages the women to try new things and jumpstart their lives. “I love my character,” said Thomas. “Jinx is a very interesting, kind’ve loud and gregarious character, but I think as it goes along you discover that it might be a little bit of a front. And so she has a really nice arc; she travels a long way in this show.”
The play also stars Rebecca Bivens as the daffy and endearing Dot Haigler, a retired French teacher from Oklahoma whose husband has recently died, leaving her to face retirement alone, and Michelle Britton as Marlafaye Mosley, a boisterous Texas woman who moves to Savannah after her husband divorces her for a twenty-three-year-old dental hygienist.
The friendships the characters develop is also reflected offstage. For Thomas, the best part of working on the show is “the camaraderie between all four of us — the women on stage — and Jimmy the director. He’s just created a really warm, inviting, and fun environment.” Roberts agrees, “The chance to work with other actors that I just admire and love their work and comedic abilities — that’s my favorite part.”
“People should come see the play because it’s light, it’s fun,” said Phillips. “There’re wonderful themes about family and starting over at middle age and surviving catastrophic events in your life.”
“It’s just an enjoyable evening of theater. It’s watching a bunch of funny ladies up there having a good time,” added Thomas. “But there’s some moments in the show that are touching, so it’s kind’ve got that whole package.”
“It’s funny; it is a lot of the reasons why people want to be entertained,” said Roberts. “I also think it’s relatable, just in general, about times when we’re at our lowest and we don’t think that anything new can happen, or we don’t have any people or friends, and suddenly, next thing you know, there’s people and circumstances in your life that you never would’ve guessed. It’s always a new day, and there’s always a silver lining.”
The play runs Thursdays through Sundays from this Thursday through Oct. 14. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays; 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and 4 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased by calling the Unity Theatre box office at 979-830-8358, or by visiting the website at tickets.unitybrenham.org.