It has been just over ten years since I last saw The Cemetery Club at Scripps Ranch Community Theatre, just apiece down the road from PowPAC. Now it’s Poway’s turn to house this charming play. Kate Hewitt is at the helm, directing a fine cast. Her set designer, Raylene J. Wall, has provided a well-lived-in set and a unique and very personal setting for the cemetery. I got just a touch of deja vu remembering that Wall directed that other version ten years ago.
In her director’s notes, Hewitt mentioned a theatre truism: “90% of directing is casting.” Casting Diane Thrasher, Renee Levine, and Lucy Ann Albert as the three widows who visit their deceased husbands regularly is inspired. The director brought out the qualities of each of these fine actresses. No doubt, each provided many fine touches to their characterizations.
Diane Thrasher, as Ida, brings the qualities of stability and strength to the perennial mourners. Lucy Ann Albert, as Doris, brings deep sincerity to the group. Renee Levine, as Lucille, provides a wonderful eccentricity to the group. This ensemble mixes and matches to near perfection. Their repartee is a continuous stream of Jewish one-liners, which reveals much about each of the widows.
Act II opens with the three getting dressed to be bridesmaids for a much-married friend’s latest wedding. The three dresses are hideously pink, of a design that is totally uncomplimentary. While Ida and Doris dress in the living room, Lucille dresses in the privacy of an upstairs bedroom. She makes a grand entrance in a Dolly Parton-style wig and a push-up bra that allows for little modesty.
It is, however, the second scene that had the audience laughing until tears ran down cheeks. The no longer ladies return home quite a bit beyond tipsy. The one-liners and the over-the-top acting make for an inspired scene.
This is balanced by almost a soliloquy by Levine at the cemetery, which closes the show. The outrageous humor is often balanced by moments of introspective comments. In a short conversation with the playwright ten years ago, he mentioned that the idea for The Cemetery Club came when he was only 19 and it became a full-fledged play a few years later.
Two actors we saw little of were Tom Delaney, as Sam, a friend, a very serious friend of Ida, and Ilene Kruger, as Mildred, a not-so-serious friend of Sam. Kruger absolutely took full command of the stage for her short time on it. She is one very, very funny human being.
The technical and design staff created an excellent unity, enhancing excellence in direction and action. The Cemetery Club explores relationships, love, death, and the foibles we all have. It is funny, it has serious moments, and it is an enjoyable production. (Ed: And that’s what I said ten years ago.) The show will make you laugh and it will also give you moments to think about some serious events that happen in life. I hope you avail yourself of the opportunity to see this production.
Diane Thrasher, Renee Levine, Lucy Ann Albert, Tom Delaney
Co-producers Debbie Dave & Lynn Wolsey, Asst to Dir Diane Tietz, SM Amanda Dali, Asst SM Gisela Koestner & Deanne Theodore, Set Designer Raylene J. Wall, Set Decoration Sherrie Colbourn & Sabato Fiorello, Sound Designer Lou Alliano, Lighting Designer Chad Oakley, Tech Chris Fadden, Costume Designer Sherrie Colbourn, Props Sabato Fiorello
Total Rating: Three and a half Stars
Author: Ivan Menchell
Director: Kate Hewitt
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2008
Dates: Weekends, January 18 thru February 10, 2008
Running Time: 143 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
13250 Poway Road
Box Office Phone (858) 679-8085