Written by Ivan Mitchell
Directed by Adam Furfaro
Performed by Jocelyne Zucco, Linda Goranson, Rosemary Radcliffe
Huron Country Playhouse
July 20 to August 7, 2004
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Lots of Laughs and a Few Tears in Cemetery Club
“The Cemetery Club” opened Thursday at Huron Country Playhouse, with lots of laughs, but at the same time, sending the audience home thinking about life, love, and death. Like last year’s “Over the River and Through the Woods”, the first act is full of great comedy and keeps the audience laughing, but the second act turns bittersweet, with many of us reaching into our pockets for Kleenex.
It’s the story of three friends, Ida, Lucille and Doris, who have all been widowed in the last four years. Ida is the most sensible of the three – while she misses her husband terribly, she realizes that life goes on, and she enjoys herself, baking for her grandchildren and playing canasta with friends. Lucille, on the other hand, has refused to mourn Harry and instead is attacking life with a vengeance, dating a series of widowers and partying to the max. Doris, however, continuously grieves Abe’s death and dwells on the past. She drags the other two on monthly pilgrimages to the cemetery.
The banter and bickering among the three friends is reminiscent of “Steel Magnolias” — proving the female friends theme is universal: these three Jewish women in New York would have much in common with the southern belles of “Steel Magnolias”.
Huron Country Playhouse’s production of “The Cemetery Club” is very well done, and more enjoyable than the 1993 movie version. Director, (who directed the very popular “Buddy Holly Story” last summer) has created believable characters, bringing together the witty humour and the touching moments.
Jocelyne Zucco as Lucille is the most entertaining, sounding a lot like Joan Rivers. Zucco does an excellent job of conveying her brash attitude in the first act and then showing us the real Lucille in the second act. Zucco appeared in “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers” at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia.
Linda Goranson plays Ida, who gives balance to the other characters. She is charming as she explores the possibility of dating again, conveying her nervous excitement very well. Linda will be remembered for her excellent role in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Huron Country Playhouse.
Rosemary Radcliffe, who was absolutely hilarious in HCP’s production of the British farce “Move Over Mrs. Markham”, doesn’t get to show her fantastic comedic abilities here. In fact, her character is rather unpleasant – whiny and judgemental – and you wonder why her friends have put up with her for the last four years. Radcliffe is recognizable for her roles on CBC TV in “Coming Up Rosie” and “King of Kensington.”
Ian Downie as Sam the Butcher is excellent as a love interest of the local widows, and Linda Ham as Mildred is good with her annoying giggle as the other woman competing for Sam’s attention.
Simon Day’s lighting design is excellent, moving attention from the New York City apartment to the various gravesites in the cemetery, even though they all shared the same stage.
Costumes by Kate Elia are well done. Lucille’s wardrobe of tight shiny pants is amazing, and also notable are the bridesmaids dresses, especially Lucille’s dress with her stunning alterations.
In the audience for opening night were more than 70 members of the Red Hat Society, representing six local chapters. They certainly appeared to be enjoying themselves, as well as the show. The ladies looked great in their red hats and purple dresses!
“The Cemetery Club” plays eight shows a week, until August 7. For tickets call the box office at (519) 238-600 or Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or visit www.huroncountryplayhouse.com.