Cheryl Frarck likes to describe the four characters in the play “The Savannah Sipping Society” as “women the age of fine wine.”
The play, which opens June 21 at the Rochester Repertory Theatre, might best be described as a comedy with tears — and with an occasional glass of fine wine.
“You find yourself laughing, and the next thing they’re tugging at your heart strings,” said Frarck, who is directing the play. When she read the play, Frarck said, “I laughed out loud. I could see the characters.”
The four women in the play are facing challenges in their lives.
Randa, who has lived for her work, suddenly finds herself with a career challenge. Dot is struggling to overcome the early death of her husband. Marlafaye’s husband ran off with a younger woman. Jinx serves as a life coach for the other three, but has huge problems of her own.
The women meet at a yoga class, decide to get together for a sip of wine, and become fast friends.
“They laugh, they fight, they disagree,” Frarck said. “They’re sometimes thoroughly unlikable. They’re real, they’re human. It’s not just a chick flick. These are real people.”
Frarck has cast Rep veterans Christine Boos and Karen Masbruch alongside newcomers Lisa Shields and Taresa Tweeten.
“Each rehearsal is fun,” she said. “It’s a delight to work with them.”
The play is written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who have written for TV sitcoms.
For Frarck the play, and its message of resiliency and laughing through tears, holds special poignancy.
She recently retired from 45 years of teaching in Kasson-Mantorville. “My first thought in the morning was the kids, and my last thought at night was the kids,” she said. “People asked, ‘What are you going to do?’” That caused her to re-evaluate her life, just about the same time her husband received a difficult cancer diagnosis.
Against that background, Frarck has found particular meaning in a play that she said is not “fluffy.”
“Celebrate a day at a time,” she said. “If you’re looking down the road, you’re not taking advantage of opportunities staring you in the face.”
That’s a lesson well-learned by the women of the Savannah Sipping Society.