Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Cemetery Club"

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entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"The Cemetery Club"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Newport Playhouse is Ivan Menchell's, "The Cemetery Club". The show is a comedy about three Jewish widows who meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husband's graves. Ida is sweet tempered, loves to bake cookies and is ready to begin a new life. Lucille is a feisty woman who just wants to have fun and flirts with the nearest man. Doris is prigish and judgmental especially when Sam, the butcher enters the scene. He meets the widows while visiting his wife Myrna's grave on their 40 Anniversary. Doris and Lucille squash the budding romance between Ida and Sam and become guilt-stricken when this nearly breaks Ida's heart. Throw in a bubble headed friend of Sam's, Mildred and you have the makings for this splendid comedy with a little pathos thrown in to it. Veteran director, Bob Mitchell pikcs the best people for these roles and shows a strong hand with his superb direction and keen eye on how to keep the audience in stitches.

This show is a labor of love for Bob who is moving to Florida but it is a strong testament to his strength as one of the best directors around. He and stage manager, Nishan Lawton run a tight ship and the acting prowess shines. Another hilarious part of this show are the numerous costumes by Maria Ferreira especially the bridal gowns. (Lucille's is a mini skirt version of the longer gowns and is a hoot.) Gene Dufault built a unit set with a living room on stage right and the graveyard on stage left. He once again builds a stunning set that the audience can enjoy.

Vita Smith as Doris delivers her funny lines with ease and does a great job in this role. (One of the funniest bits is when she empties her enormous purse after the wedding, bringing out cake, chicken and fruit.) She interacts beautifully with her fellow actors while playing the grief stricken member of the group who doesn't want to give up their "club". Her real life daughter, Deb McGowan plays Ida who finds love with Sam after her husband's death. Deb handles this older woman's part very well as she does her scenes with the other women and Sam. She really shines in the scene where a tragedy occurs in her house. The third member of this club, Lucille is played by Sandra Nicastro. She makes this hot to trot older broad a laugh riot. Her costumes add to the hilarity of the role especially the mink coat, hat and muff as well as the micro mini bridal gown and a tight leather skirt.(One of her funniest lines is about Blue Cross and her husband's cemetery plot bill.) Sandra delivers her one liners with ease and packs a punch at the close of the show when she leaves you in tears. Bing McGrath plays Sam who is chased after by the women in the 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 is trying to woo Ida. The last member of this cast is Henryce Zannini as Mildred. She makes the most of her stage time as the tart, Sam is bringing to Selma's wedding. Hen is clad in a colorful mini skirt and red shoes but what makes her time on stage memorable is her snorting laughter as Mildred. It leaves the crowd laughing merrily.

So for a wonderful evening of food at the buffet, a funny but touching show and a rousing cabaret after it, be sure to catch, "The Cemetery Club" at the Newport Playhouse. You won't be disappointed. Tell them Tony sent you. (Good luck to Bob in Florida. We will all miss you after 20 years at the playhouse.)

"The Cemetery Club" (18 July - 7 September)
104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide