Community Players’ ‘Calendar Girls’ will leave you with a smile
PAWTUCKET – You might think the difficult part of staging “Calendar Girls” would be persuading women “of a certain age” to take off their clothes on stage.
In truth, the hard part is bringing this heartfelt comedy to joyous life, and the women in the Community Players’ production do exactly that. You’ll fall in love with their characters and their chutzpah.
“Calendar Girls” is a 2003 British comedy, based on a true story, about a group of middle-aged women who publish a nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research.
In the play, the Women’s
Institute annually produces a calendar featuring photos of members’ Yorkshire environs; the previous calendar showcased mist-shrouded cemeteries, a dubious choice at best.
After the cancer death of one member’s husband, however, the women raise the bar on fundraising, with a goal of making the waiting room at the local hospital
comfortable for families of patients. When a retailer tells them pinup calendars far outsell those with scenery, the idea is hatched to produce one of their own.
The first act deals with protagonist Chris’ efforts to convince the reluctant WI members, a mix of personalities and body types, that they can do it. Then comes the photo shoot – and the Community Players’ actors are superb. They are hilarious in setting up photos while maintaining modesty, but what really sells the scene is that
the actors look like they’re having fun; therefore, so does the audience.
Act II is where the emotion – and the knives – come out. The women hear from appreciative fans, but a bit of plausible dissention adds substance. The writing, by Tim Firth, based on the movie he co-wrote with Juliette Towhidi, is conversational, and under Pamela Jackson’s direction, the actors deliver the funny lines and the emotional ones convincingly.
In this strong cast, each actor
develops a distinct personality, but as Chris, the instigator, Karen Gail Kessler ties the story together. Kessler is funny but emotional when it counts. Sylvia A. Bagaglio is fun as a church organist whose robes belie her free spirit, and Prreeti Tiwari stands out as Celia, an outlier who, unlike most sedate WI members, wears tight leather pants and spike heels. Heather Carey is touching as the widow, Annie, while Jacob David Santos is funny as the nervous, young – male – photographer.
The show flows along at a perfect pace, and you leave with a smile and good feelings. There are only two performances left; don’t miss out.
Performances of “Calendar Girls” continue Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., in Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division St. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for students with valid IDs, available online at www.thecommunityplayers. org or by calling (401) 726-6860. Discounts are available to groups of 20 or more.
From left Richard Griffin as Rod Harper, Karen Gail Kessler as Chris Harper, Heather Carey as Annie Clarke and David Mann as John Clarke star in The Community Players’ production of Calendar Girls through this weekend. For tickets visit thecommunityplayers.org or call (401) 726-6860.