Thursday, 16 May 2019 17:43

'The Cemetery Club' hits the stage at Richmond Community Theatre

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The cast of "The Cemetery Club" rehearses a scene ahead of opening night. The cast of "The Cemetery Club" rehearses a scene ahead of opening night. Matt Harrelson - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The next play focuses on the dead, but the Richmond Community Theatre is very much alive as "The Cemetery Club" is slated to open tonight in downtown Rockingham at 8 p.m.

According to theatre director Merrie Dawkins, the play is about three Jewish widows who live in Queens, New York, and meet once a month for tea before they head off to their late husbands' grave sites. Dawkins added that people grieve in different ways, and that aspect is thrown into a bit of chaos when Sam the butcher comes into the picture. Sam has an interest in one of the ladies while the other two aren't quite sure how to feel about that and proceed to interfere. 

It all works out in the end, Dawkins said.

"One of the other characters is Mildred," said Dawkins. "She's who Sam picks to be his date because he's a little afraid to be involved with Ida, who is a character in the play that is the love interest."

Ida is played Beth Taylor, a newcomer not only to the Richmond Community Theatre, but to theater in general. When asked how long she's been acting, she replied, "How long have we been doing rehearsals?"

Taylor first got the acting itch when she came to a production during Christmas last year and was checking out the playbill about the next couple of plays coming up.

"This one sounded really interesting and a lot of fun to do," she said. "I've been working with some of the children at my church for about a year and a half now with skits and things like that. I wanted the experience to kind of take back to them, and it helps me get my foot in the door acting-wise. And I've had a blast."

The other two main characters — Lucille and Doris — are played by Stephanie Van Hassel and Anjali Patel, respectively, but all three have transformed themselves into the people they're portraying. Especially when it comes to their new Queens accents.

Patel has a little more experience on stage with this being her second play at this theater.

"I've always had a passion for acting, and it's just been something that I've always loved to do," Patel said. "During high school I was actively involved in theater arts there, and then I went off to college, came back and realized that I wanted to come back to theater."

As for Van Hassel, she has the most experience of the three by far. Although this is her first time on the stage of the Richmond Community Theatre, she's been involved in theater for 22 years.

"It's something that I've always enjoyed," she said about the craft. "Actually I'm a teacher now, but I taught theater my first year of teaching so it's something that I've always liked doing for pleasure and for work."

Van Hassel has performed in Aiken, South Carolina, at the community playhouse there and also workshop theater in Columbia.

Each had nothing but kind words for "The Cemetery Club," saying it's a realistic play that has warmth and comedy. Taylor added the play seemed like something she could relate to and friendship, life and grief are things that appeal to everyone.

"I grew up in a very large family, and as someone who likes being the center of attention, I had to do something to make myself stand out. I've always had that dramatic flair," said Van Hassel. "The Cemetery Club is a hilarious play. There's a lot of really fun moments for all the actors. My role in particular is a little over-the-top, you might say, so it's a fun role, and I've always enjoyed doing the fun roles."

Dawkins echoed all three ladies' sentiments, calling the play, "funny, warm and touching."

"It's about friendship, and it's about relationships between our peers and between a man and a woman and between these three women," said the director. "It's also about grieving and how all three women grieve in different ways."

"The Cemetery Club" was actually performed before when David Ariel was the director of the community theatre and was very successful, Dawkins said.

As for why people should take time out of their nights or days to come see the play, Dawkins said, "They will see the best performances they have ever seen on this stage. I promise. This is a phenomenal group of people. Plus, it's a very well-written play. I think it will touch everyone. It's not a sad play. I mean, there are some sad moments, but it's not a sad play. It's a good play."

"The Cemetery Club" will open at 8 p.m. tonight in downtown Rockingham, followed by repeat performances Friday and Saturday night at the same time. A Sunday matinee will be at 3 p.m., and the show will continue at 8 p.m. May 23-25.

Those interested in attending can buy tickets online at brownpapertickets.comm visit the theatre's box office from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday or 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday or call the office at 910-997-3765.

 

Last modified on Thursday, 16 May 2019 18:09