Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.

The Cemetery Club (2014):
A familiar scenario? Three ageing Jewish women bonded by widowhood, friendship of a kind and matching latter-day lifestyles. The Golden Girls of American 80s TV live on. Or do they?

Unfortunately, general comparisons aside, this is truly no Golden Girls. Ivan Menchell's play evokes memories of a sitcom that really worked in terms of abrasive humour allowing for a feelgood factor that never sank into sentimentality. This actually goes farther down the tragi-comic route, dividing the piece into two contrasting sections - two-thirds comedy and the rest more keenly-observed human drama.

It's not a bad work, but the problem here is that the actresses only seem to find their feet as a working threesome in the last 20 minutes or so. There seems to be almost a feeling of relief when they are finally able to get their teeth into the more downbeat aspects of their existence - analysing what life has become and how they now view their past marriages through regular visits to the cemetery and conversations with the headstones.

What is really missing for most of the production is the deliberately over-the-top edginess of the Jewish humour. Lines are delivered too matter-of-factly so that the real comic sparks are lost and it is hard to accept that these three would venture beyond their local hair salon let alone make regular visits to a graveyard.

Elaine Freeborn holds things together during the laboured first half and develops the homely Ida into a stronger character when suddenly faced with the prospect of a newly flowering romance. But it's difficult to sense any real credibility among the three until things turn emotional.

John Ellam's cleverly-designed set allows a New York living-room to move aside for a cemetery with commendable ease. It becomes an atmospheric venue for the mourning after.



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