Sisterhood sprouts in ALT's 'Savannah Sipping Society'
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Dear reader: This story about Amarillo Little Theatre's The Savannah Sipping Society was going to be SO good.
I was going to capture the boisterous camaraderie between stars Holly Czuchna, Carrie Huckabay, Anne Lankford and Kim Shreffler, and their teasing of director Bobby Schaffer and assistant director Nolan Huckabay, the only men around. I was going to capture how, over some rosé, they made me feel like part of the gang — or, more accurately, that they were the gang I would so very much want to be part of.
But somewhere between the interview session and the writing of this story, all my notes were lost. It's an epic fail, totally on my head.
Not only did I have a marvelous time with the women, which I so looked forward to conveying to you all, but their interaction is actually key to the success or failure of, well, any play you can think of, but especially one like Savannah Sipping Society, which opens Thursday for a two-weekend run.
This play — written by the team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who also did previous ALT hit The Dixie Swim Club — isn't one with complex themes or technical feats. It rises and falls on the chemistry of the actresses and their characters — in this case, four Southern women who meet by chance and become best of friends at an impromptu happy hour.
At the interview/photo shoot, Schaffer alluded to the fact that his work was essentially done after the casting of his four actresses.
They're all, to varying degrees, ALT veterans: Czuchna, the ALT neophyte, has three shows under her belt here (along with 30-plus shows elsewhere), while the credits for the other actresses are long and varied. Most of them have worked together in some capacity, but they've never all appeared in one play together.
Here, they play a range of Southern ladies: Randa (Czuchna) is a workaholic and a perfectionist. Dot (Lankford) is a recent widow still trying to get adjusted to her new normal. Marlafaye (Shreffler) is a Texas transplant with a personality as big as the Lone Star State. And Jinx (Huckabay) is a firecracker in a blazing-red, body-con dress who volunteers as their life coach.
"The best aspect of working with this group of women is the trust I have in each of them," Huckabay told me today in a quick, alcohol-free reconstruction of our initial interview. "They are such professionals. Rehearsals have been a pleasure; they've been easy and even fun!"
Trust came up several times in that initial interview session. (They probably trusted that I wouldn't lose the notes, too. Alas.) Today, too.
"Working with younger, brilliant women challenges me to be a better actor, but I also have full trust and faith that they will haul me up if I falter," Lankford said.
The feeling of mutual support also was a common refrain in both interviews, as when Czuchna responded to my plea for a quick comment today.
"I'm the newbie in the group, but we were all comfortable at the very first read-through," she said.
Shreffler echoed that today, as well.
"It has been interesting to work with such strong women in an atmosphere of true support," she said. "We have been a true ensemble since the first read-through."
At that ill-fated interview session, the women took pains to note that the show isn't just for women. Huckabay reiterated that today.
"It's for everyone," she said. "If you don't identify personally with one of these women, you know one of them. They're your aunt, your sister, your grandma."
"I know each character in this play in my life and my world," Lankford said. "It is completely universal to the spirit and love women share."
"And the script is just funny, period," Huckabay said. "If you come, you're guaranteed an evening of laughs!"
Perhaps you'll laugh so much that you'll walk out of the theater and not realize you've left something crucial behind.
Savannah Sipping Society will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and March 8; 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and March 9 and 10; and 2:30 p.m. March 11.
Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for seniors and students, and $13 for children Thursdays and Sundays, and $21 for adults, $19 for seniors and students, and $15 for children Fridays and Saturdays.