A Laughing Matter: Cemetery Club Keeps the Audience Guffawing, and Sighing
As kids, we are taught that it is impolite to laugh at a funeral, but as we grow older and attend more of them, we learn that remembering the life of the person who is gone—especially the happy times with laughter—eases the pain of missing them. In Barnstormers Theatre’s rendition of Ivan Menchell’s The Cemetery Club, raucous laughter abounds, even though “half of the members of the club are dead.”
Doris, Ida and Lucille are three Jewish widows in Queens, New York who have visited their late husbands’ graves together once a month since their passing—with varying degrees of interest as the years go by. While Doris sits and talks to him about what is going on in her life, Ida wonders aloud if she should move on to a new relationship and Lucille files her nails with boredom, asking “Read any good books lately?” As the three friends chose to “move on” or not in their own ways, they remain friends and continue to share life together, for better or for worse.
Doris, Ida and Lucille couldn’t have been better cast or played. Ronda Bagley, Elizabeth Newton and Rose Wingenbach (respectively) each played their roles close to perfection, their rapport with one another was superb, and their New York accents sure made this West Coast native feel like I had the out-of-town accent. One-liners abounded, and the delivery—especially Wingenbach’s—left my stomach aching from laughter. And alternately, the authenticity of their friendship, from sorrow to meddling, evoked a moist eye at certain moments. Though one might assume that such a storyline would appeal to only an older audience, the friendship at the foundation of the play is one that almost any age group can connect with.
The Cemetery Club
2 and 7:30 pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Through May 8.
Barnstormers Theatre, 112 NE Evelyn Ave, Grants Pass.