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The Cemetery Club
a Comedy/Drama
by Ivan Menchell

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 5056

SHOWING : March 17, 2017 - April 09, 2017



Best friends for decades, three Jewish widows meet for tea and sympathy before their monthly visit to their husbands’ graves. Sweet tempered Ida, feisty Lucille and judgmental Doris find their friendships put to the test especially when widower Sam enters the scene. Made into a film starring Ellen Burstyn, Diane Ladd and Olympia Dukakis, this is a touching and humorous portrait that will make you glad you came to the theater.

Director Dina Shadwell
Doris Hannah Lowther
Mildred Kathleen McCook
Sam Frank Roberts
Lucille Karen Whitaker
Ida Ann Wilson
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Club Dead
by playgoer
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Laughter through tears. That’s the emotion evoked by Ivan Menchell’s "The Cemetery Club" (at least in the second act; in the first act it’s more tears caused by laughter). Four deftly sketched characters meet at a Jewish cemetery to visit the graves of their dead spouses, and we follow them through a couple of autumn months.

Chuck Welcome’s set is as lovely as ever, with Ida’s living room, featuring a dark wood floor, taking up two-thirds of the stage. The other third is taken up by a portion of the cemetery, with three gravestones, a brick wall, and Astroturf and fallen leaves, backed by projections of trees and autumn leaves. A few branches are suspended above the playing space, completing the look. There’s a bit of sloppiness in the painting of a picture rail in the living room and in the brickwork on one side of the wall, but nothing that detracts from the action.

And the action is consistently entertaining. Sweet Ida (Ann Wilson), no-nonsense Doris (Hannah Lowther), and flirtatious Lucille (Karen Whitaker) have gotten into the habit of monthly visits to the cemetery. Their interplay keeps things hopping. When they encounter Sam (Frank Roberts), hints of romance loom. When he brings Mildred (Kathleen McCook) to a friend’s wedding, the romance seems to fade, then comes back in full force. Add in an unexpected death and the show ends on a bittersweet note.

The production features delightful costumes by Jim Alford, numerous wigs by George Deavours that vary with the demands of the script, and Kathy Ellsworth’s spot-on props. In Rial Ellsworth’s sound design, scene changes feature music selections that cue off the script and underline the emotions evoked by the script. J.D. Williams’ lighting design similarly underlines the needs of the script. When all elements of a production work together so well, it’s the director (Dina Shadwell) who deserves a lion’s share of the credit.

Ms. Shadwell has elicited wonderful performances from her cast, aided by the clear delineation of character present in Mr. Menchell’s script. Ann Wilson’s Ida is vulnerable and kind and immediately captures the audience’s heart, in one of the finest performances of the year. Ms. Whitaker and Ms. Lowther get more of the laugh-out-loud lines, but they also gain the audience’s sympathy as the plot unwinds. Mr. Roberts underplays with a gentle sweetness that contrasts with Ms. McCook’s brassiness, making it clear that the relationship between Sam and Mildred is a match made far from heaven. Blocking keeps things moving (in both the physical and emotional senses), giving the entire audience clear sightlines up until the end (when a flat gravestone marker downstage is obscured to some; but the leaf-covered marker is a brilliant design choice).

"The Cemetery Club" has been around for a number of years, but still seems fresh in Stage Door’s production. Kudos to Dina Shadwell, the cast, and the production team for bringing an old favorite back to vibrant life. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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