June 15 2016 12:22 AM

Calendar Girls’ delivers positive message despite technical difficulties

A sell-out crowd packed Owosso’s Lebowski Center Saturday as a 14-person ensemble cast took the stage in the Owosso Community Players’ production of “Calendar Girls.”

The play is based on the film of the same name, which, in turn, was based on real events. This production opens in an abstract church social room, designed by Dirk Rennick and Rob Fett, with ornate beams arching overhead. Six women, the Yorkshire, England, chapter of the international Women’s Institute, are doing Tai chi.

From the outset, the play had some difficulties. The Julia Child-like accents were difficult to understand, and the situation was made worse by too-hot microphones. It was virtually impossible to hear and understand the (presumably) witty utterances of the cast. Fortunately, despite this major communicative flaw, the story line of the play managed to push through and overcome the sound limitations.

“Calendar Girls” initially focuses on the awkward inhibitions of responsible, middle-aged women wrestling with the idea of shedding their clothes for tastefully obstructed nude photos for a charity calendar. Most of Act One builds up a restless, titillating tension as the plot moves ever closer to the risqué deed. Uncomfortable and inappropriate laughter is everywhere, somewhat making up for the incomprehensible chattering.

The staging of the photography scene is a hoot, as the women hold up circular shields — think pizza pans covered with aluminum foil — to cover each woman as she disrobes. The visual, ironically, brings to mind Sally Rand’s famous burlesque feather dance.

The initial prudish reservations of the group are overcome, and the calendars bring in over $500,000 for cancer research. Moreover, women around the world applauded the calendar as a recognition of beauty in women with diverse ages and body types.

The six members of the group — Anna Owens, Kathy Kowalski, Lynn Culp, Deb Knipe, Mary Jo Damm-Strong and Carol Henley — certainly fit that bill. Short and tall, young and old, full-figured and petite are all represented. Along the way, the group imbues their characters with humor and humanity. Veteran character actor Susan DeRosa plays antagonist as Marie, a nose-in-theair, stick-in-the-mud elder who attempts to thwart the publishing of the calendar.

At play’s end, audience members gave a standing ovation, forgiving the sound problems and embracing the greater good of the play’s message.

“Calendar Girls”

Owosso Community Players 8 p.m. Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18; 3 p.m. Sunday, June 19 $15/$13.50 seniors and students/$7.50 children 13 and under Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso (989) 723-4003, owossoplayers.com