“The Cemetery Club”: Love and Death and Laughter

Pat Farrell, Jody Carman, and Carol McManus chat about life in “The Cemetery Club” at The Barnstable Comedy Club. Photo by Rachael Kenneally.

“The Cemetery Club,” at the Barnstable Comedy Club through May 27, is warm and funny, poignant and charming. The play, by Ivan Menchell, is intelligently written, and director Marti Baker brings out the humor and tenderness of the characters and situations. The cast does a fine job, individually, and as a group.

Three older women, friends for over 20 years, meet once a month for tea and to visit their husbands’ graves at a cemetery in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. Despite the somber theme, action is lively, and the audience is captivated immediately, as the glamorous Lucille, played with spunk by Jody Carman of Forestdale, bounds into Ida’s home, claiming (boasting) that a man is following her. Good-hearted Ida, played by the delightful Carol McManus of Sandwich, is the voice of reason, but is not above teasing her friend about her new (from the consignment shop) mink coat.

Doris soon arrives. It is the fourth anniversary of her husband Abe’s death, and Doris, nicely played by Pat Farrell of Brewster, is determined to make it a special one. Lucille is not so keen on continuing “the cemetery club”; her husband cheated Harry on her in life: “I refuse to be a member of a club in which half the members are dead.”

Ida, too, wants to move on. She loved her husband Murray, but she wants to share her life with someone. Someone comes along in the form of widower Sam the butcher; Robert Bock of Falmouth is just perfect in this role, shy and sincere, and the chemistry between Sam and Ida is believable and heart-warming.

The path to true love is not smooth at any age though, and therein lie the plot twists. Mildred, played by Suzie Kokkins of Marion, appears briefly as one of those complications.

Though all the characters are Jewish, the play does not rely on Jewish stereotypes or humor; the only Jewish custom observed in the play is the practice of putting pebbles on the headstone to mark one’s visit and as a sign of respect for the dead.

There are jokes about aging. Early on Lucille tells Ida that she hopes she looks as good as Ida when she is her age. “You did,” replies Ida. But much of the humor is universal, and the relationships between the women, in good times and in bad, feel authentic.

Set designer Dennis Marchant and scenic designer Martha Jason have created a wonderfully detailed living room and a painted cemetery backdrop; the scene changes take time, but there is a soundtrack of appropriate (and sometimes humorous) music during the lulls.

“The Cemetery Club” was written in 1990 and was made into a movie 1993 with Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, and Diane Ladd.

“The Cemetery Club” continues Saturday and Saturday, May 25 and 26 and June 1 and 2 at 8 PM, and Sunday, May 27 and June 3 at 2:30 PM. The Barnstable Comedy Club is at 3171 Main Street/Route 6A in Barnstable Village. Tickets are $18, $16 for students and seniors, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 508-362-6333. For more information, visit http://www.barnstablecomedyclub.com.

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