It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said there are no second acts in American lives. The same might be said of “Calendar Girls,” whose first act rises to a glorious and fun-filled climax, but whose second act is a long denouement. Author Tim Firth tries to make us care about a few sources of conflict that have been alluded to in Act I, but we don’t much — and the problems just sort of go away.
Not the fault of the cast or the director, Dianne O’Neill Filer. They gamely work through poignant moments, aptly touching a nerve or two over Act II’s eight scenes (thus belying the play’s source as a film), but by the time 10:30 rolls around and you feel that the highlight of the night was at 9:20, you know Firth has come up short.
Scenic designer Kevin Miller has fashioned a handsome set for this story of a group of middle-aged women in rural England who gather, with increasing boredom, for Women’s Institute meetings on topics like broccoli. Led by martinet Marie (Robin Leary), the club produces a yearly calendar, replete with bucolic scenes, to raise money, but when John (Dennis Skiba), Annie’s (Devra Cohen-Tigor) husband, becomes terminally ill, the women concoct a theme for a new kind of calendar themselves, in various states of undress to generate income for the local hospital.
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: Through May 1
HOW MUCH: $27 and $24
MORE INFO: 587-4427 or http://www.homemadetheater.org
Shedding conventional ideas as well as their clothes, the six women — played, in addition to Cohen-Tigor, by Anne-Marie Baker, Joan Meyer, Terri Storti, Janice Walz, and Camille West — succeed, and then some. Money rolls in; thank-you notes from cancer patients and their families appear in the women’s mailboxes; and the sextet survives a few internecine difficulties.
Producer Stacie Mayette Barnes and HMT mainstay Filer have once again assembled a crack tech team, including lighting by Jaime Martinez, costumes by Linda Bertrand, sound by Perrin Jones, stage management by Christine O’Connell, and props by Mary Fran Hughes.
Leary serves as a fine foil to the calendar girls, getting off a rip-roaring monologue in Act II. Griffin McPherson amuses as a young photographer on his most unusual assignment ever. The calendar girls themselves couldn’t be a better assortment of types — physical, temperamental. Baker calculates the transformation of timid Ruth just right. West is a fine pianist, and I suspect she had something to do with training her cast mates to sing, nobly and movingly, Sir Hubert Parry’s “Jerusalem.” Meyer is convincing as Chris, a woman with ideas and energy enough to keep such a challenging project going. Cohen-Tigor and Skiba are affecting as a couple in crisis in Act I, and elsewhere Cohen-Tigor strikes a fine balance between touching and light-hearted. Finally, Storti and Walz have the best speaking voices for Spa Little Theater’s rather cavernous stage; every word is loud and clear, and their deliveries are spot-on hysterical.
So hats off and everything else, I guess, to HMT for covering up the script’s bare spots.