Feb. 24 2010 12:00 AM

’Club’ finds lighter side of growing old



A comedy about staying alive after death, Ivan Menchell’s “The Cemetery Club” applies the sitcom formula to the latter stages of life. While Menchell focuses on three widows from New York, his jokes and sentiments are equally applicable to the women of the Midwest. With characters as archetypal as “The Golden Girls,” director Mary K. Hodges-Nees probably had her cast picked out as soon as she read the script.

Riverwalk Theatre’s production of “Cemetery” is a near-perfect night out for a hearty laugh.

Chmurynsky, Kerry Waters and Kris Pecora star as three close friends
who became even closer after the loss of their husbands. While they
have found comfort in the routine of visiting the cemetery once a month
together, they each deal with loss in distinct ways.

Ida, the quiet mediator who offers passive support, Chmurynsky feels as
comfortable as ever. While she certainly never risks rushing any lines,
Menchell’s script is joke-laden enough to allow for plenty of pauses
and a few of Chmurynsky’s flubbed lines.

the bitter Betty White character, Doris, Pecora revels in the combative
dialogue that she shares with her promiscuous friend and foil Lucille,
played by Kerry Waters.

Waters steals most of the scenes with her towering stature aided by
spiked heels and equally styled hair that would garner the approval of
Marge Simpson. Waters helps to
set the plot in motion, as well as nearly every scene. That said, the
best lines are the insults typically shared between Doris and Lucille;
Waters and Pecora should be commended for keeping straight faces.

Garrett W. Clinard’s natural tendency
to under-play gels wonderfully with the character of the docile and
gentle Sam. As the love interest, Clinard shows off his puppyish side
when falling in love. As the sensitive widower, he delivers the most
poignant line about the short span of time between standing at the altar and standing at the grave with tender empathy.

The cast is rounded out by Maureen A. Quealy,
who briefly plays Sam’s date. Quealy has few lines but she serves
wonderfully as the aged vixen with no qualms about stealing available
men when there are fewer and fewer of them left.

the first half tends to feel sluggish, the second half is worth waiting
for as problems are resolved through a drunken catfight and Doris
unloads the contents of her purse.

Fox’s lighting design with spotlights and nighttime-blue blends well
with Patti Campbell’s costume picks. Bob Nees has designed a solid set
that keeps the backstage quiet and the foreground from being too noisy
with heeled shoes.

Cemetery Club” may not be very deep but it is therapeutic because a
healthy dose of laughter is certainly necessary after a heavy helping
of grief.

"The Cemetery Club"

Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum Drive 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25; 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 27; 2 p.m. Sunday,
Feb. 28 $10 general admission Thursday; $14 Friday, Saturday and
Sunday; $8 for students and seniors Thursday; $12 students/seniors
Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

(517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com