PAWTUCKET — A talented ensemble of six women bring down the house in The Community Players’ latest production, “Calendar Girls.”
By the end of Act 1, the appreciative audience was in stitches, wildly applauding each fascinating development.
Act 1 starts out at a weekly meeting of the Knapely Women’s Institute in the local church hall. The WI president, a guest speaker and various members struggle through a hilarious meeting agenda. One by one they explain why they joined the club and why they stay.
Heather Carey of Norton brings her authentic British accent to play group member Annie Clark, whose husband has leukemia. David Mann of Pawtucket plays husband John Clark with insight and compassion, as his health worsens and his life fades away.
Karen Gail Kessler of Barrington is outspoken and dynamic as Annie’s best friend, Chris Harper. She’s a force of nature and is married to the wild and crazy Rod Harper, played for laughs by Pawtucket’s Richard Griffin.
Touched by Annie’s loss, Chris convinces the other WI members to create a nude fundraising calendar to raise money for the hospital where John Clark’s leukemia was treated. By the end of Act 1, the racy calendar photo session is underway. That scene is worth the price of admission alone. Nicely done.
Of course, the calendar is an instant hit, sells out and goes into immediate reprint. The WI raises 10 times than what was expected.
Fan mail pours in from others affected by cancer. Celia’s response to the letters is heartfelt and believable, just spot on and moving. Prreeti Tiwari of South Windsor, Conn. plays the alcoholic Celia for laughs. Some of her lines seemed rushed early in the play but by the end, she’s impressive.
Although it takes a cast of 14 to carry off this poignant comedy, the six women who pose for the calendar get extra credit from this reviewer.
Sylvia A. Bagaglio of East Providence has perfect comic timing as Cora, the pianist and lead vocalist of the WI. Susan Martin is perfect as the ambivalent Ruth Reynoldson. She is totally convincing as she finally speaks her mind in Act 2.
Cumberland’s Lynn Price has a very fine moment as retired teacher Jessie. Her calendar photo features the fine art of knitting in spectacular fashion. She really puts her whole self into the role. Well done!
Director Pamela Jackson says she directed this show “as a tribute to my mother, who sadly lost her battle 20 years ago.”
The script is based on a true story. Members of the Rylestone Women’s Institute in Kensington, U.K., raised funds for leukemia research in 2000 after the death of one member’s husband.
Helen Mirren starred as Chris Harper in the 2003 film. The British comedy was rated PG-13 for nudity, some language and drug-related material.