“The Savannah Sipping Society” may be a comedy, but like all good comedies, there’s a serious message hidden inside the play.

And, despite the play’s title, the message isn’t for women alone: It’s also for all those men who will want to see the play, too.

“It’s not a chick flick,” said the play’s director, Jean Rice. “A man can enjoy the funny just as much as a woman. Just because it’s women (in the play) doesn’t mean a man can’t understand.”

Men go through the same struggles as the four women in “Sipping Society” do, Rice said, and just like most men, the women don’t want to let the world know their problems. But, she noted, “If a man’s wife cheated on him, he’s going to have the same emotions that a woman does when her husband cheats.”

Opening Sept. 20 at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse in Cannon Beach, “The Savannah Sipping Society” runs through Oct. 26. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sunday Sept. 29 and Oct. 13.

Landing jokes

The play is about four single, middle-aged Southern women who, during an impromptu happy hour, devise a way to escape their mundane routines and discover an enthusiasm for life they had lost. In the end, they learn the true definition of family.

Rice, who has been in numerous plays at the Coaster – many of them comedies – relies on timing to make an audience laugh.

“There’s a way to say something that can either be flat, or, if you get it just right, it can be funny, and that’s all in the timing,” she said.

As a director, she first waits for the actors to get more comfortable in their roles, develop their rhythm and find the “funny” in their lines.

“If they don’t get it, and I still think it should be a funny line, I’ll step in and say, ‘OK, there are three beats, and say this and this….’ But they’re good in finding their way.”

For Barbi England, who plays the boisterous, outspoken Marlafaye Mosely, “Timing is everything in acting. That means delivering the punchline in time with the right delivery and the right inflection. Facial expressions are important, too,” she said.

“That’s kind of my thing – even as Barbi,” England added. “I like to make people laugh. Getting a physical reaction from the audience is a high that’s just incredible.”

‘Finding humor in real situations’

Just the character of Randa Covington alone is humorous, said Danyelle Tinker, who plays the perfectionist workaholic who lives rigidly by rules and doesn’t push boundaries.

“For me, comedy is very much about finding the humor in real situations,” Tinker said. “If you’re trying to play for laughs, it’s going to come off as cartoonish or cheap in some way. But if you play the situation true to who the character is, it’s going to naturally evolve.”

Although Katherine Lacaze, has been in several comedies (and contributes to Coast Weekend), she is more comfortable in roles with more serious emotional connections. Her character – the gregarious, outgoing Jinx – “brings the party.”

“In this role, whatever I’m feeling in the moment I just get to go with it, which is a very different experience for me,” Lacaze said. “…. It’s a lot of trial and error just to see what seems to fit or what I can play with.”

When it works, Lacaze feels “relief, accomplishment. The audience is connecting to the story and our characters. They have to like your personality that you’re creating on stage; they have to connect to that person on stage to find that character funny, like you would a friend.”

Rosalie Ennis, who plays the optimistic Dot, a widow facing an illness, is able to find the humor in her character as she tells Dot’s story. It’s exciting when the audience responds, she said.

“It’s a very warm feeling,” Ennis added. “Just to be a storyteller on stage and to affect people and have them think about things. I think it affects a lot of people in the audience who have lost husbands or wives or are facing illnesses. We’re not alone. It’s important to love each other and support each other if you don’t have family around.”

Rice said she was looking for variety when she selected her actors, all of whom have performed in plays elsewhere. This is the second Coaster play for all but Lacaze, who has had roles in several productions.

“I wanted each woman to be different,” Rice said. “I wanted different looks, different personalities. I think I have four distinct women,” she said.

“As you start listening to them you will see the different characters, and, hopefully, you see some changes from the beginning of the play to the end of the play.”

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