Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Cemetery Club"

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entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"The Cemetery Club"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone The current show at the Newport Playhouse is Ivan Menchell's, "The Cemetery Club". The show is a dramedy about three Jewish widows who meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husbands graves and it begins on the fourth anniversary of Doris' husband's death. Ida is sweet tempered, loves to bake cookies and is ready to begin a new life after her husband's death three years earlier. Lucille is a feisty woman who just wants to have fun and flirt with the nearest because as you later find out, her husband was a womanizer. Doris is prigish and judgmental especially when Sam, the butcher enters the scene. He meets the widows in the cemetery while visiting his wife, Myrna's grave on their 40th Anniversary. Sam later shows up at Ida's house with chicken livers in a paper bag. Doris and Lucille squash the budding romance between Ida and Sam, becoming guilt-stricken when this nearly breaks Ida's heart. Throw in a bubble headed friend of Sam's Mildred who he brings to Selma's wedding even though he still wants to continue to date Ida and you have all the ingredients for a splendid comedy with some powerful moments of pathos thrown into it. Veteran director, Sandy Cerel picks the best five people for these roles and shows a strong hand with her superb direction of the show whether it is making you laugh uproariously at the drunken bridesmaid outfit scene or cry at the dramatic confrontation between Doris and Lucille with the latter one breaking down in tears because she pretended to be with all sorts of men to cover her hurt at Harry's cheating on her for all those years. (especially dramatic is Lucille's breakdown at the grave in the final scene.) Brava on a job extremely well done.

Sandy blocks the show beautifully obtaining all the laughs where they are supposed to be and tugging at your heartstrings just as easily. She and hard working stage manager, Nishan Lawton run a tight ship and the acting prowess of their cast shines through. Another hilarious part of the show is the purple, orchid color bridesmaid gowns designed by Maria Ferreira. (The ribbons around them led to much sustained laughter while Lucille's is hiked up to look like a miniskirt and off the shoulders, too.) The unit set is by Fred Davison who constructed a living room in Ida's house on stage right with a stairway leading to the second floor and the graveyard set in Forest Hills, Queens, NY on stage left. The stone work on this set is outstanding and is very realistic in design. There are three graves on the cemetery side of the set.

Cindy Killavey is dynamite as Doris. She delivers her funny lines with ease whether she is putting Lucille in her place or trying to protect Ida from the advances of Sam. (One of her funniest bits is when she empties her purse after Selma's umpteenth wedding with oranges, apples, cake and grapes plus a baggie full of chicken wings.) She interacts beautifully with the other performers with her comment about Selma being very funny about most people get a dog when they are lonely not an Italian and delivers a dramatic turn as the grief stricken member who doesn't want to give up their "club" and also in the throwing water in the face of Lucille. (She is also a hoot when they return drunk from the wedding with the bow tied on her head like a hat.) Nancy Pinto does a great job as Ida who finds love with Sam after her husband, Murray's death. She steals the other women's purses after their first argument in the cemetery because she wants them to make up with each other. Her funniest moment takes place in the drunken scene when she comments on the behavior of Mildred at the wedding, creating a spectacle with every mention of the word spectacle spitting in the other women's faces. But she really shines in the scene when tragedy occurs in her house when she uses her facial expression and buries her head in Sam's shoulder at the close of the scene. The third member of this club, Lucille is played by Sandra Nicastro. She makes this hot to trot broad a laugh riot with her first line being "Son of a Bitch!". Her costumes add to the hilarity of the role including a mink coat, hat and muff which Doris guesses the exact prices of. Also funny is the micromini bridal dress and the comment about Blue Cross and the cemetery plot bill. Sandra delivers her one liners with ease but packs a powerful punch at the close of the scene where she fights with Doris ending up her pulling off her own blond shag wig she has worn to the wedding and at the close of the show where she falls on the ground mourning the loss of one of their club members. This powerhouse performance will leave you astounded and also leave you in tears. Cindy's real life husband, Jim plays Sam, the butcher who is chased after by the women in this show. He plays this nice guy who wants to get over his wife's death very well especially when he is chased by Lucille and constantly forgets her name as well as his two scenes where he tries to woo Ida. The first one entering a couple of times to ask her out and the latter when he apologizes to her for taking Mildred to the wedding and listening to Doris and Lucille persuade him to leave Ida alone. Jim makes him a likeable and sympathetic character. The last member of this cast is Henryce Zannini as Mildred. She makes the most of her stage time as the loud mouth broad that Sam is taking to Selma's wedding. Hen is clad in a flowery dress with pink overtones and a pink shawl. Her suggestive line, "I can't imagine getting my meat from anyone else" garners much laughter and makes her time on stage memorable. So for a wonderful evening of food at the before the show buffet with oodles of delicious food freshly prepared by chef Sue Raposa, a funny but touching show and a heartfelt Christmas cabaret after it directed by Matt Siravo and Kyle Medeiros, be sure to catch "The Cemetery Club" at the Newport Playhouse. You won't be disappointed. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Cemetery Club" (28 November - 31 December and 11 February - 8 March)
104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT RI
1 (401) 848-7529(PLAY)

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