Dixie Invades Islip

There’s something about southern women. Audiences can’t seem to get enough of sassy wisecracks, big emotions and drawling parlor talk, as evidenced by the perennial appeal of such plays as Crimes of the Heart and Steel Magnolias. Add to that genre the comedies of Jones Hope Wooten, whose much-produced The Dixie Swim Club reaches Islip’s Town Hall, Nov. 11-20, courtesy of the Synergy Ensemble Theatre Company.

Spanning 33 years in the friendships of five ladies, Club touches on the usual and universal themes: Marriage, divorce, motherhood and aging. Reached the day before the first read-through, director David Stempler told Pulse he chose Club because of its heart and humor and because it featured “mainly women—which is easier to cast in this area.” No stranger to distaff drama, Stempler previously guest-directed The Cemetery Club, Proof and Three Tall Women for Synergy.

A college theater major and former theater teacher, Stempler, now 65, directed in Louisiana and worked in concert lighting before settling on Long Island. “I’m originally from Florida,” he said, “but I came here to help a friend of mine close a business down, and I just stayed because I really like it here.” Being in theater, naturally he has a day job: Managing the World Gym in Wantagh.

Still, the most surprising thing about Dixie Swim Club is the play’s author, Jones Hope Wooten. No such person exists or, more correctly, the name stands for three different playwrights—Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who write collaboratively and publish prolifically under the “Jones Hope Wooten” moniker. Recalling the era of similarly pseudonymous dramatist Jane Martin, JHW have enjoyed crowd-pleasing success with such red-state comedies as Dearly Beloved, Christmas Belles and The Hallelujah Girls. Though Wooten’s works have yet to reach Broadway, the trio’s website boasts a history of more than 1,200 productions, including the recent world premiere of Mama Won’t Fly, in Conroe, Texas.

Continuing the onslaught from October, this month brings a slew of Broadway openings, including a revival of the pop-gospel tuner Godspell (by the nice Jewish boy who turned Wicked, Stephen Schwartz); Seminar, a new dark comedy from Theresa Rebeck; and off-Broadway transfers of Venus in Fur and Other Desert Cities, by David Ives and Jon Robin Baitz, respectively. Look for a Steppenwolf Theater revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to hit the Broadway boards, as well.