|Stage Manager||Lynn Romano|
|Lighting Designer||Dan Lewis|
|Set Construction||Gary Martin|
'Cemetery Club' funny and dramatic
By Dave Howell, Special to The Morning Call
"The Cemetery Club" is known as a comedy, but there is actually more drama in this play about three Jewish widows adjusting to life without their husbands. The "club" refers to their periodic get togethers to visit the graves of their spouses.
This sounds a bit grim, but this 1990 play written by Ivan Menchell is upbeat and full of hope, with a message that life goes on despite the trials that come with age. The three women have jealousies and fights, but it is clear that their love for each other gives them the support they need to deal with their sorrows.
Most of the play happens in the apartment of Ida (Terry De Biase), with interspersed scenes in the cemetery. Of the three, Doris (Mary Catherine Bracali), resists moving on with her life, while flamboyant Lucille (Vicki Montesano) brags about her many dates and her attractiveness to men.
Ida feelings are mixed, as she finds it difficult to let go of her husband's memory, but she does not want to be alone. During one of the trio's visits to the cemetery, she meets the widower Sam (Steve Harris), and the two begin a relationship.
Things are going well between the couple until Doris and Lucille fear that they will lose Ida's friendship, and put doubts in Sam's mind. In the second half of the play, Sam shows up to drive everyone to a friend's wedding, but brings another woman, Mildred (Lucille Kincaid), as a companion.
The play does a pretty good job of dealing with the difficult subjects of widowhood and romance in later life. It could be a bit shorter than two hours and fifteen minutes (including intermission), and it could use more one liners to spice up the action.
Perhaps the best thing about "Cemetery Club" is that it lets veteran performers take center stage to show their skill at both comedy and drama. That is certainly the case with this production, directed by Gary Boyer.
There is a lot of ham here, but that is perfectly kosher for this play. The Jewish accents are just broad enough for Jewish humor, and the characters are vibrant enough to make you forget about their secret emotions, until they come out in the second act.
The drama is as well played as the comedy, as shown when the three reveal their feelings and their fears in Ida's apartment after the wedding. Harris is low-key is contrast to the women, which makes his own hesitant revelation of his feelings realistic and meaningful.
"The Cemetery Club" will not only convince you there is life after death, but that it is worth living. So, that's not enough to make you to see it?
•"The Cemetery Club,'' 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 13, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem, Tickets: $22; $19, seniors and students Fridays and Sundays only. 610-865-6665 http://www.paplayhouse.org.
Dave Howell is a freelance writer