Friday, February 15, 2013

REVIEW: Magenta Players Shine in the Dark Comedy "The Cemetery Club"

Magenta Theater presents Ivan Menchell's dark comedy "The Cemetery Club" as their first production of their 2013 Season.

The cast of Magenta Theater's "The Cemetery Club."
In the play three East Coast Jewish widows meet once a month for tea before going to visit their husbands' graves. Ida is sweet tempered and ready to begin a new life, Lucille is a feisty embodiment of the girl who just wants to have fun, and Doris is a master at one-liners. But all this starts to change when Sam the butcher visits his wife's grave and bumps into the threesome. Doris and Lucille plot to squash the budding romance between Sam and Ida, and the surprise appearance of 'cheap and cheerful' Mildred seems to help their ploy. The play is filled with witty lines and fascinating characters as well as touching and solemn moments.

The Stars

Magenta's Artistic Director, Jaynie Roberts, has directed the production with great aplomb. Roberts' approach is deft and delightful.

Lucille, Doris and Ida rehearse a scene from "The Cemetery Club."
Well-known Portland entertainer Francine Raften plays Lucille, Amalia Alarcon de Morris plays Ida, Patti Reynolds (the lone Vancouver resident) plays Doris, Tony Provenzola the pursued Sam, with KC Cooper rounding out the cast as Mildred. Patti and KC were most recently seen in Magenta Theater's production of "12 Angry Women," Tony in "The 39 Steps." Raften and Alarcon de Morris make their Magenta debut in this production. All of the cast members were stellar, with Raften shining so brightly she almost steals the show. She has great comic timing, physicality and a deep sensitivity.

The first half is a gas, full of humor, albeit at times leaning toward dark humor. The second act begins with several surprises and has the funniest bits, but then turns angry and ends on bitter-sweet note touched with humor. After all, the play deals with death.

WARNING: There is some language, smoking and drunkenness (as well as the death issue), so I wouldn't recommend it for young children (or even those suffering a recent loss, though, for some, this could bring healing).

The Setting

This photo does not depict the actual set which is really quite good.
The living room set is one of the best I've seen at Magenta, though the cemetery set suffered from several elements. Since the theater lacks a FOH curtain, the graves were set in front of the living room set. Even though lighting pools were utilized to separate the area, the effect did not create enough of a distance for the proper emotional remoteness. Other than that all things technical were top notch.

Performances are: Evenings at 7:30 p.m., February 16, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, and March 1; 2 p.m. Matinees, February 23 and March 2. Tickets here.

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
All photos provided.

[Editor's Thoughts: Is it still SW Washington theater if you have a token resident in the show? Or is it Portland theater presented in a Vancouver venue? Would I be covering Vancouver theater if the play was in Portland and all the players were from Vancouver? Hmm, I have to think this over. Where are my coverage boundaries and loyalties?]


  1. Greg, I wouldn't presume to speak for another theater, but my opinion is that if the producing theater company is in SW WA, then it's a SW WA production. I know that when I'm casting a show, I don't look at the address on the resumes, but for the person I think is best for the role. I understand the perspective that we have many fine actors in this area and that we don't "need" to import actors from across the river. But another way of looking at this is that Vancouver theater has reached a stage where we're attracting actors from a larger and larger area. That has to be a good thing, yes?

  2. Is a basketball team local if all the players live or are recruited out of the city? Magenta does not discriminate on where our actors come from as long as they can make the commitment. As you know Greg, the actors on stage only make up a small part of what goes into a show produced by many local talents.

    Dave Roberts