Com­mu­nity Play­ers’ ‘Cal­en­dar Girls’ will leave you with a smile

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By KATHIE RALEIGH Special to The Times

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.

Sub­mit­ted photo

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.

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