Ida, Doris and Lucille share one strong bond.
They are all widows who visit the graves of their late husbands once a month.
However, do not let that rather melancholy fact keep you from attending the wonderful Ivan Menchell play, The Cemetery Club, which opens at Upper Canada Playhouse on Thursday, September 5. To do so would result in your failing to meet three of the most colourful, funny and lovable characters ever to grace the Playhouse stage.
Director Donnie Bowes has said that The Cemetery Club will be an evening of “pure pleasure that will make you glad that you went to the theatre.”
He likens the women in this production a little to The Golden Girls, an enormously popular television show of the 1980s and early 1990s. This is not surprising in that the author of the play, Ivan Menchell, wrote for situation comedies, and uses the almost episodic approach common to sitcoms with The Cemetery Club.
“The play develops over a series of events,” Bowes said, at a recent press conference. “There is a strong story line which draws audiences in as they share the widows’ journey toward life changes during the play. There are plot surprizes, some touching, some hilarious, and certainly the punchy lines and dialogue very common to the best sitcoms.”
Audiences can be assured that this will be an outstanding production simply on the basis of the talented and distinguished cast Bowes has brought together for this show.
Returning to the Playhouse Stage are Linda Goranson, Patti Kazner and AnnaMarie Lea (with a special appearance by Brenda Quesnel).
Joining these veteran stage actors is Doug Tangney, well known to Playhouse audiences. Tangney’s widowed Sam, according to Bowes, “stirs the pot a bit,” when he makes the acquaintance of Ida, Lucille and Doris.
AnnaMarie Lea, who now hales from Alberta, has impressed and entertained Playhouse audiences in several past productions. Her Lucille is “very shy – NOT! Lucille lost her husband 18 months earlier, but she is determined to get out there, to move on,” Lea laughed, hinting that her rather flamboyant character has “money, so she’s had some work done. She’s gives the impression of a ‘merry widow’, but perhaps, in the end, that is something of a facade.”
Linda Goranson, as Ida, has just completed the enormously successful run of No Sex Please, We’re British. “Ida is two years a widow,” Goranson explains. “She has only recently begun to toy with the idea of moving on in her life, not simply closing herself off. Ida, Lucille and Doris have been friends, oh forever, despite being in this slightly horrible ‘club.’
We laugh a lot, we do things together, we actually all love each other a lot despite our differences.”
As Doris, Patti Kazner, known to UCP audiences for her performances in On Golden Pond and Maggie’s Getting Married, among others, “lost her husband, Abe, nearly four years ago. Probably Doris is the one who is ‘most addicted’ to these graveside visits, to the idea that by going to his grave she can still somehow be with Abe. Their late husbands still remain part of each woman’s life.”
“Sam is a catalyst,” Doug Tangney said. “The play is about the journey of the ladies, but meeting Sam changes the direction of that journey. The group balance is upset by this widower of two years.”
Sean Free has designed the very versatile, very unique set for this production. Because it is such a key part of the play, Free has developed a set where the cemetery can “be incorporated as a surrounding element to the main living room set. Lighting (also designed by Free) is very important in this show,” he explained, “to contrast between the inside and the outside scenes.”
“Yes,” added Bowes, laughing, “Sean and I have been negotiating lighting and set placements. Friendly negotiations mostly.”
The cast of The Cemetery Club clearly love the characters they portray in this classic production.
Audiences will soon share that love.
For tickets to the final production of the Playhouse summer season, contact the UCP box office at 613-543-3713 or toll free at 1-877-550-365