The last time Swift Creek Mill Theatre performed “The Sweet Delilah Swim Club,” Tom Width couldn’t believe the response from the audience.
“We were surprised at how hard the audience was laughing, and how often they were interrupting the show with laughter,” recalls Width, who last directed the show in 2014. “We knew it was going to be funny, but we had no idea the audience was going to react at the level that they did.”
Tonight, Width and company are opening the show for another run. Last time around the show was titled “The Dixie Swim Club,” but times have changed and so has the title of this play, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.
The show still concerns five Southern women who were once on the same swim team. Every August, the five-some meet up for a weekend in the Outer Banks and recount their children, romances and divorces. Their clique includes a health nut, a former nun, a woman who can’t seem to catch a break, a cynical lawyer and a professional flirt whose number of ex-husbands rivals the number of cosmetic surgeries she’s undergone.
At the show’s start, they’re 44 years old; by the end, they’re 77.
“We get to see them at four different times during their reunion weekends,” explains Width, Swift Creek’s longtime artistic director. “They have very different lives, they have very different careers, but they’re still bound together by their swim team past. They talk about their kids, their love life — you name it. People get to laugh and shed a couple tears with them.”
Local actress Joy Williams, who played Sheree in both Swift Creek’s original show and the version hitting the stage tonight, remembers that audiences laughed so hard during their previous run that the actresses sometimes had trouble maintaining control of the show.
“There’s laughs all the time,” she says. “It’s funny because it’s so relatable, and everybody’s experienced the things that these ladies go through.”
“It’s just about balancing your dating life, your married life, your kid life, your friendship life — and how important those friendships are in everyone’s life,” Williams says. “These ladies have stood together through thick and thin. It’s really, really fun and it’s really, really sweet. It’s something that everybody can relate to.”
Asked about the show’s plot, Width says he doesn’t want to give too much away, but says that by the end of the show “the nun is not a nun anymore, and we’ll have a few laughs about why.”
Width notes that Jamie Wooten, one of the play’s authors, was previously a writer for “The Golden Girls,” to give potential audiences a flavor of the show’s essence.
“He really knows how to write these [shows] for mature southern women,” Width says.
As for why audiences should see the play, Width says it delivers a hefty dose of escapism.
“I love to do comedies like this — not to deal with the world but to escape from it,” Width says. “Forget your troubles, relax, have a good time.”
“The Sweet Delilah Swim Club” runs May 26-July 1 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Route 1, Chesterfield, 23834. For ticket information call 748-5203 or visit swiftcreekmill.com.