Cast saves Live Theatre Workshop's comedy 'The Cemetery Club'

2013-04-04T00:00:00Z Cast saves Live Theatre Workshop's comedy 'The Cemetery Club'Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

"The Cemetery Club" has lived long past its time.

The 1990 comedy is a mix of "Golden Girls" with less depth and "Steel Magnolias" with less wit. The play flopped on Broadway; the movie flopped around the country.

Still, Live Theatre Workshop took it on, and while this isn't a good play, the Sheldon Metz-directed production isn't bad.

That's largely due to a cast that threw itself into this comedy with death and a bit of living at its center - three Jewish widows, longtime friends, meet monthly to visit their husbands' graves.

Doris (Peg Peterson) loves those graveside chats with her husband and can't imagine a full life without him. Lucille (Roxanne Harley) is a lusty broad who escaped a miserable life when her philandering husband died, leaving her with a big hunk of insecurity.

Ida (Leah Kari) is sweet and willing to consider there is more to life than hanging at her dead husband's grave.

You can see the laughs coming, right? Jokes about aging, a woman desperate for a man, bathroom habits of the geriatric set.

But there's also heart to this play, and it is especially found in Doris, who can't seem to get past her husband's death, tends to his headstone with intensity and has a gentle spirit about her. Peterson, with a voice like honey and a knack for acting with a deep truth, made this character a touching one.

Harley was a hoot as the flirtatious, mink-loving Lucille. The one obligatory drunk scene with the three women is given an especially funny turn by Harley.

Kari has a tendency to act her subtext, so we see much that should be on the inside on the outside. But there's a sweetness to this character, and there were moments, when Kari wasn't trying too hard, that that came through.

Michael Woodson played the butcher Sam, a widower with a clumsy but touching interest in Ida. Woodson gave him shape and nuance. Renata Rauschen, in a small role as the clingy, man-hunting Mildred, hit all the right notes.

"The Cemetery Club" could be a bit of a tear-jerker, but there didn't seem to be any damp eyes at Saturday's sold-out audience. Metz admits to loving warm and fuzzy, but that comes across best when the emotions aren't pushed by the cast.

But really, the greatest blame lies with the playwright, Ivan Menchell. The characters are one-dimensional and predictable. Sure there are laughs. But sometimes that just isn't enough.

If you go

• What: Live Theatre Workshop's production of "The Cemetery Club."

• By: Ivan Menchell.

• Director: Sheldon Metz.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through April 2; additional 3 p.m. performance Saturday, April 27.

• Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway.

• Tickets: $18, discounts available.

• Reservations, information: 327-4242.

• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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