“We were quite the threesome.”
Ida, Lucille and Doris are quite the threesome, and audiences will be forgiven for instantly entering into a love affair with them all. The Cemetery Club, now running at Upper Canada Playhouse until September 29, is a show that makes you very glad you chose to spend two hours sharing the lives of these marvellous women.
The title of Ivan Menchell’s play is deceptive. Far from being gloomy and dark, this production embraces life. Life is precious. Time is precious. Friends are precious. Ida, Lucille and Doris make that very clear.
Actors Linda Goranson, AnnaMarie Lea and Patti Kazmer are wonderful as colourful, outspoken widows, whose decades old friendship is now rounded by monthly visits to the grave sides of their late husbands. Each woman has her own particular reasons for the cemetery ritual, reasons the audience begins to understand in the course of the evening.
Not that these women are long-suffering, mournful saints. Not by any means.
One of the great pleasures of Menchell’s script is how incredibly funny it is.
From the moment Lucille bursts into Ida’s comfortable living room, draped in her latest outfit, a mink, the laughter never stops. “Do you really need a mink coat?” Ida asks. “A mink you buy because you want it. Support hose you buy because you need them!” Lucille retorts.
AnnaMarie’s Lucille might be described, in the kindest way, as a bit outré. Clothes and make up and attention matter to her. “Can I help it if men find me attractive?” “Lucille, you never stay with one man long enough for me to meet him,” Ida sighs.
Opinionated, outgoing, ready to say exactly what is on her mind, however outrageous, Lucille grabs at life with both hands…and generally gives it a good shake.
Linda Goranson, as Ida, is gentler, more introspective. She adored her late husband, Murray, but sometimes “it worries me that the memories are still so strong…sometimes it seems like (Murray’s) still right there.” Tentatively, however, she has begun to consider the idea that it may be time to get on with this life. “I need to be with someone…to give to someone…I’m not going to spend the rest of my life feeling guilty.”
The sudden, unexpected possibility of a new love leaves Ida almost giddy, and the audience rooting for her.
Doris, the third widow, memorably portrayed by Patti Kazmer, can be sharp even cantankerous. Her whole life revolved around her ‘Abe’, her one, her only, her forever love. Visits to talk to him at his grave are deeply and emotionally necessary. Indeed, these trips to the cemetery are “the high point of Doris’ month,” as Lucille puts it. “She prepares for them for two weeks ahead and thinks about them for two weeks after.”
To Doris, true love can happen once, and only once.
Then Sam, the widowed butcher, arrives, and stirs up this established threesome. Sparks fly in all directions. Doug Tangney brings warmth and humour, and a vulnerability to Sam that is deeply appealing. “Instead of looking at what a woman was like, I kept looking at how she wasn’t like Myrna,” he admits.
A strong cameo appearance by Brenda Quesnel creates a pivotal, and critical moment in the play.
Yet the laughter in The Cemetery Club is contagious.
This is a play of boisterous one liners, and of outrageously hilarious comments that only those who truly love each other can make. It is a play that shares with us wickedly funny situations (like the latest wedding of the much married Selma, where the threesome have all been summoned to be bridesmaids…again), or a post wine, spontaneous cha-cha by the women that brought Friday’s house down.
This is also a play that can deeply, very deeply, touch your heart. Trust me.
Staged on a versatile set by Sean Free, with lighting that seems to effortlessly take the action from the indoors to the outdoors, director Donnie Bowes’ production of The Cemetery Club is a wonderful end to the Playhouse’s summer season.
Ida, Lucille and Doris: quite the threesome indeed. And isn’t that lucky for audiences!
The Cemetery Club runs until September 29 at Upper Canada Playhouse.
Contact the box office at 613-543-3713 or on line at www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com.