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The Towne Players of Garner will present The Cemetery Club Jan. 16-24 at The Garner Historic Auditorium in Garner, NC. In playwright Ivan Menchell's charming comedy about growing old more or less gracefully, three middle-aged widows get together each month to visit their husband's graves in the Forest Hills cemetery in Queens, New York. They dub themselves "The Cemetery Club."
According to the Towne Players' web site, "The three [widows] are in various stages of mourning. One misses her husband terribly, one is almost too busy chasing men to notice her husband is gone, and the third is beginning to think it might be time to move on with her life. A handsome widower further complicates matters in this touching and funny show, which explores life after the loss of a loved one."
The Cemetery Club opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway on May 15, 1990 and ran for 56 performances.
Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt says, "I first read The Cemetery Club a couple of years ago, and it stuck with me. I liked the idea that this play features older actors and does such a lovely job of bringing their problems to light.
"The senior population in this area has been so wonderful to our group," Honeycutt says. "I wanted to do something I felt captured their feelings well."
Beth Honeycutt says, "The Cemetery Club is about three lifelong friends who have all lost their husbands. It deals with their various stages of mourning. One (Beverly Jeanfavre) is basically waiting to die so that she can join her husband. The trips to the cemetery are her solace. One (Janis K. Coville) is having the time of her life, dating everything in pants. Trips to the cemetery to visit her cheating husband's grave are wearing thin. The third (Frances Stanley) is wondering if it might be time to cut the monthly visits and begin dating again.
"A handsome widower (Don Howard) shakes things up between the friends," Honeycutt reveals, "and Sandra Shelton plays Mildred, a younger woman with designs on the widower."
Mounting shows such as The Cemetery Club on the tiny stage of The Garner Historic Auditorium always presents considerable creative challenges to Beth Honeycutt and her husband, Scott, who serves as the Towne Players' technical director. "We're quite a team," claims Beth Honeycutt. "Scott designs the set, and I choose the colors and dress it. We usually agree!"
She adds, "Space is always an issue. We struggle to find rehearsal space; and the stage at The Garner Historic Auditorium is very small, so creating two different locales is never easy."
For The Cemetery Club, Beth Honeycutt says, "We worked to keep the set simple. It is a room in an older woman's apartment, so we kept the colors muted, the pictures of the grandchildren plentiful, and steps low. The cemetery is suggested in front of the curtain."
Although the stage is cramped, the comedy that The Cemetery Club unleashes is in no way inhibited. "While this show features older actors," Beth Honeycutt says, "it really is enjoyable for all audiences."
The Towne Players of Garner present The Cemetery Club Friday, Jan. 16, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 17, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 22-24, at 8 p.m., in The Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 West Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina. $8 ($6 students and seniors). 919/779-6144. Towne Players: http://www.towneplayers.org/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=4327.