Three Jewish widow friends: Ida (Paula Brown-Weinstock), Lucille (Nancy Radigan), and Doris (Ellie Fosmire). Pastime: visiting the graves of their dead husbands, beloved to one degree or another.
Enter the butcher, Sam (Mark Finkle), and the cozy relationships are not so cozy anymore. Comedy and pathos are bound to ensue. Such is the case of “The Cemetery Club,” by Ivan Menchell, now in an earnest production at CLT.
Menchell has clearly delineated the women’s personalities. Ida seems grounded, properly mourning her husband but feeling there must be a little more to life than the routines she shares with her friends. Doris won’t hear of any changes. On the fourth anniversary of Abe’s death, she acts as if she’s still sitting shiva. And Lucille — she with a secret that comes out later in the play — echoes a line from “The Importance of Being Earnest:” as a widow, her “hair has turned fairly gold from grief.” Yes, Harry was a cheating cad, and she’s living in mink off his insurance money.
The Cemetery Club
WHERE: Colonial Little Theatre, One Colonial Court, Johnstown
WHEN: Through Oct. 28
HOW MUCH: $12
MORE INFO: 518-762-4325
When they see Sam at the cemetery, visiting his late wife, Myrna, Lucille makes a play for him, but he only has eyes for Ida. Lucille and Doris become jealous and try to scotch the relationship, but when Mildred (Carol Russo) appears on the scene, they realize what they have done to their friend and “fess up.” After one more plot turn, a sort of happy resolution is reached.
Played on a single set that features Ida’s living room downstage and the cemetery upstage, the production moves along at a brisk pace. (A couple of long pauses at Friday’s performance didn’t really disrupt the proceedings.) Director Lisa Pfeiffer has helped the performers, some of whom are fairly new to acting, hit their marks in simple blocking and stand and deliver their lines with a broad sense of comic timing, thus prompting chuckles and between-scenes applause from the audience. The moments of pathos, however, need to breathe more than they do; we get the gist of what’s going on, but the emotions are glossed over.
There are a number of successful features here. CLT veteran Russo has just one scene, but her depiction of a preening widow happy for Sam’s attentions is a hoot. Finkle and Brown-Weinstock imbue their one-on-one scenes with warmth, and she is charming as she trots around her apartment to satisfy one person or another. Fosmire, Radigan, and Brown-Weinstock also do especially well in a drunk scene in Act II. Indeed, their interplay generally feels credible. Finally, Radigan plays Lucille — the character who gets the largest share of funny retorts — with a Phyllis Diller drollery.
Community theater outings bring great pleasure to those involved, both onstage and behind the scenes, and to their family and friends, one of whom shouted at the end of the performance, “Good job!” As the run continues and the performers get increasingly comfortable in their characters’ skins, I suspect that there will be even more to enjoy.