The Broward Stage Door Theatre presents Ivan Menchell's appealingly bittersweet comedy, The Cemetery Club. It is the story of three Jewish widows in Forest Hills, Queens. They are the surviving half of three sets of long time best friends. Each of whom is in a different stage of healing and moving on with her life. Once a month the three women - Doris, Ida and Lucille - meet to pay their respects to their husbands, who are all buried in the same cemetery.
Doris is content to have loved her husband well and seeks nothing more than simply to go on remembering him. Lucille appears to quickly have dismissed the loss of her late husband and hungrily searches for a new man. She flaunts the men on her arm with hopes that her philandering late husband sees that she has moved on without him. No doubt Doris would contentedly visit the cemetery every day, but Lucille declares "I refuse to continue to be a part of a club where half the members are dead!" Ida is in the middle of these two opposites. She recounts how her husband always loved coming home to her home cooked meals, and how she spent the first few months after his death numbly cooking elaborate meals for the husband that would never come home to her again.
When Ida spends time with a widower named Sam, she wonders if she may be ready to open her heart to a second chance at love. The two find a connection that is soon torn asunder by Ida's meddling friends. Though meaning well, Lucille and Doris decide that Ida is not ready for this budding relationship. They warn off Sam, who respectfully retreats without telling Ida why. When Sam appears at the wedding of a mutual friend with a glamorous and slightly younger widow named Mildred, sparks fly. Ida is hurt, and Lucille and Doris confess their interference. After a mild cat fight, complete with drinks thrown in faces, Ida, Lucille and Doris each more intently view their journey as single women.
After the wedding, we learn that Lucille, despite her bravado, has not been able to be sexually intimate with another man since her husband. His unfaithful adventures have left a part of her doubting that she was "good enough." The women are bound together by their hurt, their healing and the discovery that they are more alike than they believed. Though Ida regains her chance at love with Sam, she losses her dear friend Doris, who unexpectedly passes away the day after the wedding. For those remaining, life goes on. It is a story of emotional strength and endurance.
The Cemetery Club has been compared by many to the play Steel Magnolias. If it pales slightly by this comparison, it is only that the characters individually are less colorful. The subject matter of this play however is every bit as powerful, though Menchell's style has the light-hearted feel of a sitcom at times. The Cemetery Club opened on May 15, 1990 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York City where it ran for 56 performances. It was released as a film in 2003. Playwright Ivan Menchell is also noted for providing additional material for the musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which ran on Broadway from May through December of 2005.
The action all takes place in a one-room set well executed by Sean McClelland. We are in Ida's living room, complete with family photos and her late husband's pipe collection. The actors in this production may be a bit younger than those in the script, but they pull off their portrayals effectively. Miki Edelman finds some warmth in her role as the stoic Doris. Merry Jo Pitasi is both hopeful and tender as Ida. Rusty Allison is charmingly clumsy as Sam. Tina Lilly is appropriately prissy as Mildred. And Robin Barson does some scene stealing as Lucille; she bristles with energy as she shows off new clothes and hair. She seems like that slightly frantic and overly dramatic friend or relative we all have. Cheers to this production.
The Cemetery Club appeared at the Broward Stage Door Theatre May 12, 2006 - June 25, 2006. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs as well as their 26th Street Theatre location in Ft. Lauderdale are open year round. For tickets and information on their new season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or on line at www.stagedoortheatre.com.