CARROLLWOOD — Debuting June 13 and running through June 28, Carrollwood Players Theatre, 4333 Gunn Highway, presents Ivan Menchell’s bittersweet comedy, “The Cemetery Club.” It is the story of three widows and longtime friends who are in a different stage of healing and moving on with their lives. Once a month Doris, Ida and Lucille meet to pay their respects to their husbands, who are all buried in the same cemetery.
“Expect a lot of laughter and a little bit of tears,” said actress MaryAnn Bardi. “My character Lucille is flamboyant, sassy, man crazy and looking for a good time. But underneath it all I feel she is a woman who has been hurt badly by a man she loved.”
This is Bardi’s second time playing Lucille and it has an especially poignant meaning to her.
“I’m dedicating the show to the actresses who played Ida (Bucky Barclay) and Doris (Helene Brennan) the first time around. They were both great women and helped me enormously during the run of the show because I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery the week before tech week. These women showed the true meaning of friendship and really brought Ida, Doris and Lucille to life.”
Director Frank Stinehour started at the theater as a stage manager of Cabaret in 2007.
“This show is not about a religion or about traditions like some may think it is about,” he said. “It is about the relationship of three longtime friends and the sharing of their stories and how they each contribute to each other’s life. You will fall in love with each of the women and everyone will relate to one or all of them in many ways.”
Produced by Ann Lehman, the cast also features Karyn Lorenzetti as Ida, who is ready to venture back into the dating pool; Judith Sachs as Doris, who is devoted to her deceased husband with no interest in finding new love; and Jen Hall as Mildred, a younger widow and potential love interest for the only man in the show.
“The only male in the cast is Ron Forth, who plays Sam, a lovable shop owner from New York looking for a relationship that will help fill the emptiness that was left by the loss of his wife at an early age,” explained Frank.
Stinehour’s goal is to make the audience feel like they are not watching a play, but becoming part of it.
“I enjoy directing shows that have a good story and keep the audience’s attention,” he said. “I have a passion for movies and cinematography and often mix light and song within the story. I also borrow film techniques and styles and add them to the flow of the show. My saying is reacting is the best ability that an actor can have. It is not all about the lines and movement, but do you feel that this is really happening?”
The nonprofit Carrollwood Players Theatre is Tampa’s oldest theater, having been in the community since 1981. It features nine plays per season, One Act Weekend, Black Coffee staged readings, Theatre by Young People, Life Amplified variety showcase, and the improv troupe Nine and Numb.
Though they offer online payments and reservations at their website, tickets are also available by cash or check at the door.
The Cemetery Club is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday night and 3 p.m. Sunday. Advance tickets are available at www.carrollwoodplayers.org or at the box office for $18 for a regular ticket and $15 for seniors, students and military.