• Theater Review: Much more than ‘The Golden Girls’
    By Jim Lowe
     | July 21,2013
    Jim Lowe / Staff photo

    From left, Ida (Emme Erdossy) is happy to have Sam (Robert Nuner) join the group, but not Lucille (Jude Milstein) and Doris (Maura O’Brien) in Lost Nation Theater’s “The Cemetery Club.”

    “The Cemetery Club” is frothy summer entertainment with a heart. Three Jewish widows religiously visit their husbands’ graves each month, reliving their lives together — until another man enters the picture, wreaking havoc on their friendship.

    Lost Nation Theater’s most entertaining and heartwarming production of this Ivan Menchell romantic comedy, which opened July 11, benefited from some particularly fine portrayals by three of the area’s finest actresses. Friday’s performance was witty, charming and touching.

    “The Cemetery Club” opened on Broadway in 1990. A feature film of the same title was released in 1993 starring Olympia Dukakis, Diane Ladd and Ellen Burstyn. This isn’t exactly Pulitzer-level theater. However, with fine actors, it takes on a very human depth — and that’s exactly what the Lost Nation production has in spades.

    Maura O’Brien is the ever-so-earnest Doris. Her husband died four years ago but she clings desperately to him. Emme Erdossy’s Ida lost her husband more recently, but she’s finding the monthly visits a little stifling.

    Lucille, played by Jude Milstein, has a different approach. She believes in “playing the field” with whatever eligible man she runs across. Still, the three remain loving and inseparable friends.

    That is, until they meet Sam, a widower butcher, played with charm and dry wit by Robert Nuner, at the cemetery. Lucille goes for him immediately, and Ida is quietly attracted. But Doris is disgusted with the whole thing, angry with the other two for even inviting him to join them.

    When Ida and Sam begin dating, the other two unite to stop it. They convince Sam — without Ida’s knowledge — that he is taking advantage of her grief. It all comes to a head when Sam brings another woman, Mildred, played with charm and wit by Marsha Gilette, to a wedding they are all attending.

    Directed by Tara Lee Downs, Lost Nation’s production is an example of excellent ensemble acting. Particularly the three women as the widows played off from each other beautifully with hilarious and heartwarming results.

    Downs is also growing into a fine and inventive director. This year, previous to this production, she directed “Good People” for Vermont Stage Company and “God of Carnage” for Middlebury Actors’ Workshop, both excellent.

    Lost Nation’s production is a polished one, with a realistic and attractive set by Donna Stafford, illustrative costumes by Cora Fauser and effective dramatic lighting by Wendy Stephens.

    Lost Nation’s “The Cemetery Club” is a lot more than “The Golden Girls.”

    Lost Nation Theater

    Lost Nation Theater presents “The Cemetery Club,” a romantic comedy by Ivan Menchell, July 11-28 at City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main St. in Montpelier. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, except at 2 p.m. July 28; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $30-$15; call 229-0492, or go online to lostnationtheater.org.

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