Monday, June 8, 2015

Review of "Calendar Girls"

Taking a popular movie and reconfiguring it for the stage can be a tricky endeavor.  Case in point is the Ivoryton Playhouse’s American premiere of the British show Calendar Girls, based on the motion picture of the same name.  The play can be disjointed in its presentation and the dramatic moments have too much ebb and flow. 

The production follows a group of women involved with the W.I., the Women’s Institute, the largest women’s voluntary organization in the United Kingdom.  After the husband of one member succumbs to cancer they decide to raise money to buy a settee for the local hospital in his memory.  Their unique method proves to be a sensation in the country and throughout the world.  As their notoriety spreads issues of friendship, self-worth and the seduction of money become more prominent before everything is resolved at the show’s close.

Tim Wirth, who adapted his screenplay (co-written by Juliette Towhidi) for the stage, has given the play an uneven flow.   There are funny moments, scenes that tug at your emotional heart strings and confrontations, yet they don’t all integrate to form a satisfying whole.  The part of the show that focuses on the photos for the creation of the calendar are well-written and entertaining, but cannot make up for the looseness from the rest of the production.

The cast is uneven in their performances.  Hopefully, they will become more comfortable as the show progresses through its run.  In order for the production to succeed they group of six women need to coalesce more as a single acting unit and better play off one another’s eccentricities and foibles.  There are a few standouts including Beverly J. Taylor as Chris, the carefree organizer and promoter of the fundraiser; Jacqueline Hubbard as Annie, the easygoing, yet more grounded member of the association; and R. Bruce Connelly as John, Annie’s cheerful, yet ill-fated, soul mate.

The pacing of the show is a problem.  Jacqueline Hubbard, doing double duty as director, is able to mine the tender and poignant moments of the production, but the comedic scenes don’t always deliver.  They should be crackling with sparkling repartee, which often does not happen.  She does an outstanding job staging the calendar shooting sequence.  Instead of being a risqué and possibly uncomfortable moment in the show it is done with fun, good taste and aplomb.

Calendar Girls, occasionally amusing, through June 21st.

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