If anyone overheard the conversation in Ida's Queen's apartment, they might assume they were listening to a bunch of gal pals in their early 30s giggling and chatting over dating, men, and buying secondhand furs. But as we find in Ivan Menchell's The Cemetery Club, the last production in Lantern Theatre's season, the threesome featured in this dramedy are older women who have all recently lost their husbands. There's Lucille, confident and outgoing; Ida, dependable and sweet; and Doris, stubborn and loyal.
While their personalities suggest differently, their bonds are strong after years of triple dating on cruises, leaning on one another for support when times grew dark, and now, visiting their husbands at the cemetery together once a month.
But things are changing. Lucille (Ruthe McKeown) is excitedly dating and agonizing over the many men whocan't resist her. Ida (Anne Bass) thinks she might be ready to meet someone new, and visit the cemetery less. Doris (Sharon Levine) is the only one desperate to keep their tradition going, fussing over the lack of cleanliness over her husband's grave and clinging to their monthly visits. Their mostly quiet existences take another turn when fellow widower Sam (Bob Alpert) appears to have some interest in Ida.
High school truly never ends as friendships are tested, doubts manifest, and conflict ensues.
Finely directed by Alice Weiner, the three women who drink tea (and later wine) in a cozy living room set may very well had been real friends acting these moments in real time. Despite a slow start, the rapport between these ladies is apparent through their laughter, their bickering, and their efforts to play peacemaker when the othersdon't see eye to eye.
Levine as Doris is (rightfully) frustrating, as she refuses to move forward in her life, and is quick to judge her friends on their need to see what is out there without dishonoring their deceased husbands. Bass as Ida works stealthfully as the glue in this threesome, and later her emotions morph adorably into those of a schoolgirl embarking on her very first date. Her acting is thoughtful, and she possesses quite an ease as she laughs with her friends, cha-chas across the stage, or agonizes over the intentions of her suitor (the endearing, bumbling Sam). It is McKeown as Lucille who steals the show with her exaggerated personality, flippant remarks, and carefree living. As the play progresses, McKeown's character gradually strips her Blanche DuBois persona and reveals some very authentic emotions. McKeown's ability to embrace the complexities of her multi-dimensional character brings Act II to an important climax.
The Cemetery Club touches upon a multitude of emotions, and is sure to make an audience giggle, as well as connect and relate to the situations these women are going through. Doesn't everyone deserve a second chance? Does grieving ever end? Who better to stumble through these questions with then the ladies who know you best? Again, Lantern Theatre has proven it knows its audience and has chosen to present another production (following a brilliant run of Falsettos) that plays upon many emotions and leaves you appreciating the humanity of theatre.
Catch the final performance of The Cemetery Club on June 24, 2012. And be sure to mark your calendars for their season opener, Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest in October.
For ticket information and directions, please visit LanternTheatreLI.com or call (516) 221-4485. Lantern Theatre is located in North Freeport, New York.