For a perfect ladies’ night out, drop in on ‘The Cemetery Club’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater 

It's an emotional story about friendship and grief in older women's lives.

Aldersgate Church Community Theater presents Ivan Menchell’s The Cemetery Club, a touching dramedy about moving forward after loss. Ruben Vellekoop directs a talented cast in this special production, one that is a perfect choice for a night out with your girlfriends.

Patricia Nicklin, Kathy Ohlhaber,  and Janice Zucker in ‘The Cemetery Club.’ Photo by Howard Soroos.

Every month, longtime friends Ida (Patricia Nicklin), Lucille (Kathy Ohlhaber), and Doris (Janice Zucker) meet to have tea and gossip before visiting their husbands at the cemetery. It’s a longstanding tradition, though it’s becoming clear that a couple of them are ready for a change.

Lucille is young-at-heart and wants to go out and have fun — it’s obvious that these visits have been a drag for her for a while now. Ida is feeling conflicted; she’s feeling ready to move on and is dealing with the guilt and hesitation that come with it. Doris, however, remains as devoted to her late husband as ever, bringing pruning shears to lovingly tidy up his plot while chatting away as if he were sitting right next to her. As the women find themselves in different stages of their grief, their bond becomes a little shaken as judgment and resentments sneak in. The situation exacerbates when Ida meets Sam (Kirk Lambert), and her friends get a little too overprotective.

I enjoyed all of the performances. The ladies all worked well together and each brought distinctive qualities to their characters. Janice Zucker is curt but charming as Doris, shooting witty quips to her friends as she unloads pilfered chicken wings from her purse. Kathy Ohlhaber gets a lot of laughs as Lucille, a woman who is desperate to recapture her youth (and looks a bit foolish while trying), and Patricia Nicklin is great as Ida, the steady, sensible friend who often mediates squabbles between the other two. Kirk Lambert does a good job as Sam, a widower himself who is also figuring out how to navigate life without his spouse. There are a lot of very funny moments in this show, but plenty of poignant ones as well. Ohlhaber in particular has an emotional, cathartic scene that is especially well done, and I’m sure it’ll stay with me for a while.

Since The Cemetery Club is dialogue-driven, most of the action takes place in one setting. Because the technical team has to worry about only one space, it’s obvious that they put a lot of time and effort into it. Set Designer Charles Dragonette creates a lovely sitting room, constructed by Julie Fisher and her team. Tombstones sit in the foreground of the stage, and lighting by JK Lighting and Cleo Potter highlight them whenever they’re needed. There were a couple of sound cue gaffs at my performance, but they weren’t too distracting, and I’m confident that the issue has been ironed out since. Overall, the production team does a great job creating a foundation for the story to unfold.

Meredith Gagariola,  Kirk Lambert, Janice Zucker, Patricia Nicklin, and Kathy Ohlhaber in ‘The Cemetery Club.’ Photo by Howard Soroos.

As The Cemetery Club is a story about older widows, the audience for this piece is pretty specific. However, it’s an ill-kept secret that a lot of our entertainment isn’t targeted specifically for older women. This one is, and it’s a special piece about friendship and grief and their effects on our lives. Tell your mom to take her friends to a showing of Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s The Cemetery Club; they’ll have a great time.

Running Time: Two Hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Cemetery Club plays through April 10, 2022, at Aldersgate Church Community Theater—1304 Collingwood Road, Alexandria VA. Tickets ($15–$18) can be purchased online.

COVID Safety: A mask is required to cover mouth and nose at all times while in the Aldersgate United Methodist Church building. Seating will be socially distanced. Check back here to see if this policy has been updated prior to attending a show.


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