Review: 'The Cemetery Club' at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

Berlin, CT - ‘The Cemetery Club,’ a sweet and very funny play written by Ivan Menchell, opened at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin on Friday. Director/producer Kris McMurray celebrated his birthday on opening night at the cabaret theatre that he owns and where he serves as artistic director. During his curtain speech, he mentioned the tweets above.

Despite the title, there is much comedy in what comes out of the mouths of the three Jewish widows who meet every month for tea before visiting their husbands’ graves. I laughed along with the rest of the audience as the smartly drawn characters, written as being in their late fifties and early sixties, try to navigate life without their husbands. Ida is the sweet-tempered one who is ready to begin a new life. Lucille is flirty and feisty and looking for a good time, while Doris is judgemental and a bit of a prude. Sam the butcher meets the trio while visiting his wife’s grave at the cemetery, and sparks fly between him and the lovely Ida. The other two widows try to squash the budding romance and eventually are guilt stricken when their actions nearly break Ida’s heart. This is a dramatic comedy with just the right amount of poignant drama and plenty of heart.

The set flipped back and forth from Ida’s tidy living room in Forest Hills, Queens and the local Jewish cemetery. This required moving out the tombstones when the women headed to visit the cemetery and this took a little bit of time, but it didn’t really slow down the flow of the play. The costumes for the cast set the mood for the indoor and outdoor scenes nicely, with flashy dresses and a fur coat and accessories for Lucille and less flashy garb for the others. James J. Moran was in charge of the very good lighting and sound; there was some incidental music that helped set the scene. Linda Kelly ran things backstage.

It was good to see three of the ladies from CCT’s ‘The Oldest Profession’ back on this stage. Barbara Horan, who had played the brassy Edna in ‘Profession,’ was decidedly more sweet in the role of Ida. Karen Gagliardi (who was Ursula in ‘Profession’) here played the role of Lucille, who never misses an opportunity to flirt but is hiding a secret. This actress hit every one of her one liners and handled the drama just as well. Mildred, who only appears in the second act, was played by Bonnie Sprague, who played Vera in 'Oldest Profession.'

Tracy Costa played Doris and, despite her priggish personality and her strong attachment to her dead husband, we liked her anyway. Her best scene was when Doris brings home a little bit of everything in her purse when the group attend yet another wedding of their friend Stella. This is the food reference in the Tweet of the playwright.

Kudos to the only man in this cast, Russell Fish (‘The Fantasticks’ at CCT) who played Sam with a great understanding of the role of a man ready to jump back into the dating pool. The director was less-than-supportive of the lone male member of his cast in his curtain speech, but it was clear that he was joking about this talented actor. I hope to see him again on this stage.

The Cemetery Club runs every Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm from through June 24th, 2017.  Doors open at 7:15pm. To purchase tickets, please call the box office at 860-829-1248. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit The Connecticut Cabaret Theatre is located at 31 Webster Square Road, just off Route 9 (exit 22: Mill Street) and the Berlin Turnpike. The theatre’s motto is “BRING YOUR OWN”. Presented cabaret-style, patrons are welcome to bring whatever they like to eat or drink with them (and they do.) They also can enjoy a dessert bar that has a variety of treats to purchase.


Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417