There should be an expiry date on wifely duties, as far as Lucille is concerned in Cow Patti’s uproarious comedy The Cemetery Club.
After months of joining fellow widows, Ida and Doris, in visits to their spouses’ graves, Lucille explodes: “I refuse to belong to a club where half the members are dead!”
This sets the riotous tone of this boisterous, life-affirming play by Ivan Menchell. It opened Thursday as a professional dinner theatre production at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club.
It’s been a rough few years for the three Jewish friends, who replaced joint couples cruises with regular trips to the cemetery as their husbands dropped off one by one. But their story line is the opposite of maudlin.
It plays out like a live-action, laugh-a-minute sit-com. In fact, if this was an episode of the Golden Girls, Lucille (played with over-the-top zeal by Lacombe’s AnnaMarie Lea), would be sexpot Blanche.
Mink-clad minx Lucille is tired of cemetery trips, but not too weary to seize the opportunity to pick up grieving widowers.
Her pal Doris is scandalized. It’s been four years since her husband, Abe, went to meet his maker, but Doris (played with Bea Arthur-like tartness by Patti Kazmer), doesn’t want to move on — and she resents any suggestion they curtail the grave-side visits.
Ida, sensitively portrayed by award-winning actor Linda Goranson, is the most relatable character of the three friends. Although she misses her dearly departed husband, Murray, Ida is drawn to Sam the butcher after he re-awakens feelings Ida thought she was long-past feeling.
Cow Patti hits pay dirt with this production by combining Menchell’s wickedly witty script with some heavy-duty talent — including director Donnie Bowes, artistic director of the Upper Canadian Playhouse in Ontario.
Bowes is helming what’s actually a reunion show (Lea, Kazmer and Goranson are reprising roles they first tackled in a 2013 production of The Cemetery Club in Ontario), and he keeps the action moving and jokes a-coming.
When the three friends get glammed up to attend a wedding, Lucille tells Ida she’ll “knock ‘em dead.”
“Dead, I got,” Ida responds without missing a beat.
Aside from the funny banter, The Cemetery Club works because it’s true to life — with bittersweet moments mixed in with the humour.
On the subject of grandchildren, Ida tells Sam (played by Shaw Festival veteran Rod Campbell), “You just sit back and smile, and watch them do everything to their parents that your children did to you…”
This talented cast of mostly Ontario-based veteran actors (including Susan Greenfield as Mildred) will leave you laughing one moment and tearing up the next. In short, they will knock your socks off.
Catch The Cemetery Club, if you can. It will reaffirm that we are never too old to live life to the fullest.
It runs to March 6.