Photos Reviews

The Cemetery Club

November 2013

This American comedy centres on three Jewish widows, Lucille, Ida and Doris, who meet once a month for tea in Ida’s house in Queens, New York, before going to visit their husbands' graves. Ida is sweet tempered and ready to begin a new life, Lucille is apparently the embodiment of the girl who just wants to have fun, and Doris is priggish and judgemental. Into this trio of friends comes Sam, ‘the best kosher butcher in town’, when he meets them at the cemetery while visiting his wife’s grave. Doris and Lucille squash the budding romance between Sam and Ida, but they are guilt stricken when it nearly breaks Ida’s heart.

This funny, moving play by Ivan Menchell is one that I am sure Topsham audiences will enjoy for its pace and many punchy one-liners.

Tickets (£8) are available from Topsham News or via Estuary Players website (www.topshamestuaryplayers.org.uk)

Howard Eilbeck
Director


Cast:

Ida - Anny Kilbourne

Lucille - Chris Eilbeck

Doris - Angela Wallwork

Sam - Alan Caig

Mildred - Avril Pattinson

Production Team:

Director - Howard Eilbeck

Assistant Director and Prompt - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Stage Manager - Marie Taylor

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Props - Tom Epton and Jill Mather

Costume Supervision - Clare Philbrock

Frocks made by - Isla Morgan

Lights - Peter Tapp

Sound - John Bradley and Maggie Bourgein

Set Construction - Eliot Wright and team

Front of House - Bill Pattinson, Sharon Wannell and team

Photography - Brian Wallwork

Reviews:

From Unknown:

delighted to see this heart warming and entertaining production

I have to admit that ‘The Cemetery Club’ is not a play that I would usually rush out to see and it certainly has it’s structural weaknesses, but I was delighted to see this heart warming and entertaining production by The Estuary Players and, judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the audience around me, so were they.

This bitter sweet comedy, which has been described as a cross between ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Steel Magnolias’, focuses on the lives of three Jewish widows ( Ida, Doris and Lucille ) in their late 50’s to early 60’s( founder members of ‘The Cemetery Club’ ), who meet each month before going to visit their husbands’ graves. When they all meet Sam, the local butcher, and Ida falls for him, Doris and Lucille try to prevent any romance developing to protect their own relationship with Ida. Although a witty comedy with some very funny one-liners, the play touches on some universal themes like coping with loss, death, love, change and friendship.

After his success with ‘Brassed Off’, Howard Eilbeck proves once again what a fine director he is. Appearances to the contrary, this is not an easy play to get right and the direction succeeds in achieving the correct balance between the fun comedy and serious emotion. The production has the right pace and timing for the comedy to work and executes the quieter, more serious moments, with great sensitivity. The reaction to Doris’s death and the final cemetery scene are beautifully handled and avoid the pitfall of sentimentality, achieving true pathos. Both scenes were very moving. I also liked his simple but effective staging and the quality performances he managed to coax from his small cast.

Anny Kilbourne seemed to inhabit the gentle character of Ida with ease and handled the accent really well-a subtle performance of great authority. I really liked her long pause and facial expression in reaction to the death of Doris and how she conveyed Ida’s hurt feelings when Sam arrives with Mildred. In the scene where Lucille enters in her outrageously extravagant wedding outfit and asks Ida if she thinks the brooch on her breast is too much, the excellent timing and tone of voice adopted for Ida’s line, ‘The brooch I like‘, is pricelessly funny. Chris Eilbeck really portrayed the fire-cracker personality of Lucille with tremendous energy, vibrancy and skill. She handled the scenes when Lucille admits the truth about her ‘sexual’ relationships and her final speech in the cemetery with great aplomb. She also handled the accent well and her timing was very good.

Angela Wallwork was equally good as Doris and also got to the heart of her character. I particularly liked the quality of her speech when she described the first time that she saw her deceased husband Abe-which was so well done. Her reaction to Ida’s speech about her ‘need to be with someone, to give to someone...I’m not going to spend the rest of my life feeling guilty for wanting to be touched,’ was a finely judged mixture of bewilderment, loss and hurt.

Alan Caig, as Sam, caught the nervous excitement of re-kindled passion very well and also Sam’s sense that life may pass you by unless you are prepared to grasp its joys in the here and now! Some of Sam’s facial expressions when playing ‘piggy in the middle’ were very funny and added greatly to the comedy. Avril Pattinson supported well with her usual class as Mildred, though the part as written is somewhat sketchy. Actually the characters as written border on the stereotypical, so it is to the productions great credit that the performers achieve some depth of characterisation.

The set and lighting was good and the costumes were well designed. I liked the backdrop and the props all seemed appropriate for the period. This was a production that The Estuary Players should be proud of and one that I and others were privileged to see.

- Reviewed by: Ian Potts

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