Play: The Cemetery Club
Group: Kirkwood Theatre Guild
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
Dates: January 22, 23, 24
Tickets: $16; contact 314-821-9956
Story: Once a month, Ida, Doris and Lucille meet to sip tea, chat about their social circle and then pay a visit to their late husbands, all of whom are buried in the same cemetery. Their levels of interest in this regular trek, however, vary widely. Doris perpetually wears her grief on her sleeve, while Ida is a bit more circumspect, although equally mournful about the loss of her life’s true love. As for Lucille, she has long grown weary of unsatisfying visits to the gravesite of a man who wasn’t around much when he was living. Instead, she’s more interested in bargain deals on clothes and where to find eligible men.
Despite their bickering, the trio thrives on each other’s presence. So, it’s a bit disarming to Doris and Lucille when Sam the butcher, whose late wife is another cemetery occupant, takes a shining to Ida, causing her two friends to plot a scheme to throw water on the romance.
Highlights: Russell Bettlach serves as a triple threat for this production. As set designer, he gives Ida’s living room a comfortable, appealing look that reflects her warm nature; for trips to the cemetery, the curtain simply is closed on that scene and a couple of portable tombstones are moved to the front of the stage. As costume designer, Bettlach keeps the attention on the flirtatious Lucille, including a garish dress she’s selected for another marriage of the ladies’ friend, Selma.
Other Info: As director, Bettlach guides the four women and one man of this cast through the creaky, predictable developments in Ivan Menchell’s two-act comedy, and it’s a generally unsuccessful quest.
There’s some nice work by Marilyn Bass-Hayes as Ida, the most sensible of the three Jewish widows, as she stays within the measured parameters of her character. Diana Krueger has fun in the role of Lucille and takes advantage of the play’s best lines. Nancy Leahy milks Doris’ suffocating personality a bit too much, and Gloria Bender has a small role as Sam’s newfound friend, Mildred. As the sole widower in the group, George Wiseheart suitably plays to the follies and foibles of the ladies, moving Sam subtly through the verbal minefields.
For the most part, Bettlach’s pacing is numbingly slow, resulting in a long evening filled with more pauses than laughs. Geoff Harris provides some good work on the lighting, particularly early scenes in the cemetery, and assistant director Joan Dolan contributes a sound design of trusty old ballads. In the end, however, this club is in need of vitality in more ways than one.
Rating: A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.