published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Gem Theater buries itself in 'The Cemetery Club'

IF YOU GO

What: "The Cemetery Club."

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, Aug. 25-27, Sept. 1-3; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 28, Sept. 4.

Where: Gem Theater, L&N Depot, 700 S. Tennessee Ave. (Highway 411), Etowah, Tenn.

Admission: $12 adults, $10 children under 12.

Phone: 423-263-3270.

Website: www.gemplayers.com.

Happiness may be where you find it, but a cemetery is certainly an unusual place to make the discovery.

Yet, for Ida, Doris and Lucille in "The Cemetery Club," which opens today at the Gem Theater in Etowah, Tenn., it's the place to be.

"They are characters of strong women dealing with life," said director Rick Parker.

The comedy is the opening show of the theater's 19th season and continues for three weekends at the L&N Depot venue.

The production focuses on the three Jewish women who make monthly visits to the cemetery where their husbands are buried. Each of the three is at a different stage of her widowhood, but the three together share laughter, tears and even manage to irritate each other.

Parker said the women together are similar to family members who might feud with each other but rally to each other's side if attacked.

"They don't have very much family," he said. "They're friends with each other. They've had fun together for years."

The play has been compared to "Steel Magnolias," "First Baptist of Ivy Gap" and television's "The Golden Girls," and Parker said there are similarities.

"It's a little bit different," he said, but "these characters [in 'The Cemetery Club'] are similar to them in terms of integrity and tough-mindedness."

The comedy, according to Parker, evolves from the banter among the women.

"It has a serious tone," he said, "but it is a comedy."

Parker said a show that walks the fine line between comedy and poignancy requires excellent actors, and Haroldean Thompson (Ida), Elaine Baker (Doris) and Virginia Orr (Lucille) provide that in portraying the main characters.

"The ladies have been in several other plays," he said.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at The Town Squire Menswear on Keith Street in Cleveland, Southern Heritage Antique Store on Tennessee Avenue in Etowah and at the box office one hour before show time.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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