For those of us who thought death was serious business, it may be time to take another look. A good starting point would be a trip to Crighton Theatre’s current production of Ivan Menchall’s charming comedy, “The Cemetery Club,” ably directed by Grace Thompson. A trio of “golden girls” head the cast, with Terry Lynn Hale as Lucille, Martha Davis as Ida and Marilyn Moore as Doris. In strong supporting roles, Marcia Feldt Bates (as Mildred) and Wes Bush (as Sam), round out the talented cast.
With fluid and graceful moves on stage, the effervescent Hale arrives at Ida’s apartment proudly showing off her new mink coat. We meet their friend, Doris; and very shortly the three wise-cracking widows are off for their monthly visit to the cemetery to spend a bit of time “chatting” with their late husbands. Doris is not happy with the condition of Abe’s plot, accusing the landscapers of “perpetual negligence.” Ida reminisces about her days cruising with Murray and their friends. Hard-edged Lucille scolds her late husband, Harry with, “Now at least I know where you are at night!”
Enter Sam the butcher who has come to the cemetery to visit his late wife’s grave. Doris is horrified when Lucille begins to flirt with Sam – “The only reason he goes to the cemetery is to meet a woman!” But Lucille has about had it with monthly celebrations of death and declares, “I refuse to be in a club where half of the members are dead!”
The fun continues as the gals plan attendance (as bridesmaids) at the next in a long line of weddings for their friend Selma. They look forward to being escorted by Sam. (Sam says, “I like Selma’s weddings! They’re like reunions!”) My earlier reference to the “golden girls” is sincere, as our three lead actresses really do comprise a comical senior sisterhood where amusing barbs are tossed back and forth without restraint. Nevertheless, there are a few tiresome stretches in the script where the laughs dry up, but happily our comedic cast usually has things back on track in short order. As Ida, Ms. Davis gives a robust performance, and as love blossoms between Ida and Sam, it seems hard to imagine why her girlfriends would stand in the way of that happiness. When all else fails, Lucille hilariously shops for mink accessories until a friend quips, “Now all you need are mink shoes!”
The Act II wedding preparations are great fun and sparked by the devilish arrival of Mildred, dressed in equally devilish red. The bridesmaid costumes are fun too, and you have to see Lucille’s hilarious entrance in a platinum blonde wig with her bridesmaid’s gown pulled up her thigh and fastened with a rose! Hale’s comic timing here may remind you of another Lucille — the late Lucille Ball. There is a riotous and rowdy return from the wedding, a feisty “cat fight” among the gals, and a suitable set of morning-after hangovers. There are even a few devastating admissions, and a poignant plot twist I don’t dare disclose here. Why not see for yourself with a trip to the Crighton for what may well feel like a delightful evening with old friends?
“Cemetery” will be performed on Friday and Saturday at Conroe’s Crighton Theatre. For tickets and information, call 936-441-7469.
(The Courier 4.1.06)