Written by Tim Firth
Directed by Denni Don Hunting
Reviewed by Wayne Erreca (5-8-16)
Calendar Girls is based on a true story taking place in a small village of Knapeley in the Yorkshire Dales, where a group of women belonging to the Women’s Institute rally around one of their members recent loss of her husband to Leukemia. The widowed wife, Annie (Linda Miller) and W. I. member, Chris (Terri Heffron) brainstorm a tribute to her deceased husband, John (Bill Meyers), by recruiting four other W. I. members, Cora (Nan Worthington), Jessie (Jill Bert), Ruth (Maria McKane), and Celia (Allison Herren), to compile a photo cheesecake calendar to finance a new settee for their local oncology waiting room. The six courageous women then stumble across a hospital porter who happens to be an amateur photographer, Lawrence (Dan Mello), to perform their hilarious photo shoot. Unbeknownst to all of them, upon completion and commercially marketed, their sensually marinated fleshly figures become a smashing success, bringing worldwide notoriety to their quaint village church hall in Yorkshire Dales.
Originally produced as a motion picture in 2003 as Calendar Girls, directed by Nigel Cole, with screenplay by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi, and a star-filled cast, it became moderately successful. After a few years, Tim Firth considered the potential of turning it into a stage production, which eventually happened, and opened at the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End, directed by Hamish McColl. The stage version, thereafter, has become one of the most produced stage plays in all of England.
Director Denni Don Hunting has created a fabulous orchestration of fluid emotional beauty among her highly talented women, and men, in this heart wrenching, and continuously amusing masterpiece of Tim Firth. The plot is simple, the stage setting is sparse, but the humanistic warmth of intimate interaction is divine. Hunting has threaded the brilliant dialogue, connected soundly to its balanced measures of emotion throughout every scene, and every actor is realistically grounded, drawing the audiences on the stage, and assisting them to reflect on their own memories of departed loved ones.
The genius of Firth’s Calendar Girls is the seamless bond of love between these six glorious women. I found myself being transported into Balboa Park once again, with its charmingly gorgeous forest of trees, and white-stoned tables, and benches, where my Icelandic grandmother Laura and her chorus of Bridge card elder ladies shared lunch prepared for a king, and their musical pitches of enlightened chatter reaching out to my eight years old ears. Never before, or thereafter, have I ever enjoyed that kind of joyous assembly of jolly ladies bonded in one, until watching the Old Town Playhouse’s production of Calendar Girls. On a sadder note, I too, drifted to the memory of my departed dear sister Theresa, who recently passed away from a fatal bout with Leukemia.
It wouldn’t be right to neglect naming the remaining cast members who happen to be, Jill Beauchamp as Marie, Joelle Mabey as Brenda, Rhonda Richard as Lady Cravenshire, Jenna Michalek as Elaine, Patrick Gillespie as Rod, and Tom Cole as Liam.
A competently inviting setting designed by Kerr Anderson, and a beautifully costume design by Kathy Verstraete, with Sound Design by Gary Bolton, and Light Design by Don Kuehlhorn, graciously supports the many creative needs to this marvelous production.
There is something magic about a circle of women who thoroughly enjoys one another’s company. I feel blessed having memories of Grandma Laura and her jolly ladies in the mystical forest of Balboa Park. And now, an addition has been found, in viewing Calendar Girls at the Old Town Playhouse.
Twelve Angry Men
Written by Reginald Rose and adapted by Sherman L. Sergel
Directed by Debbie Hershey
Reviewed by Wayne Erreca (1-18-16)
I was only two years old when Twelve Angry Men was first produced as a television drama for Studio One in 1954. The following year it was tooled into a stage production and a short time later in 1957 it was co-produced by Henry Fonda into a major motion picture with Reginald Rose creating its fabulous screenplay from his original story, starring notable actors as: Henry Fonda as Juror 8, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, and Jack Klugman. It was filmed in black & white by newcomer Director Sidney Lumet who masterfully choreographed the splendid cinematography using riveting close-ups to bring you deeply into the hearts and minds of the twelve jurors as they passionately struggled to come to a unanimous verdict for an eighteen-year-old young man that killed his father with a switchblade. If he was to be found guilty the death sentence would be his fate.
The play begins in the mid- 1950’s, after six days of testimonies, with final arguments having been concluded as the twelve jurors enter a small and steamy hot room that, unfortunately, has a broken wall fan, and has only three small open windows, that help to relieve their sweating discomforts. There is Juror #1, who is also their Foreman (Josh Thomas), Juror #2 (Dan Bruining), Juror #3 (Brett Nichols), Juror #4 (Jan Dalton), Juror #5 (Derek Wooton), Juror #6 (Paul Jarboe), Juror #7 (Joe Kilpatrick), Juror #8 (Rick Korndorfer), Juror #9 (Larry Hains), Juror #10 (Ed Mulcahy), Juror # 11 (Mike Nunn), and Juror #12 (Ward Lamphere). Attending periodically to their needs is The Guard (Tom Cole).
Director Debbie Hershey has cast a brilliant group of actors. What make them incredibly efficient are their own unique personalities. Their body languages and temperaments are all their own and do not collide into repetitious blends, and in their individualities, the storylines clarity is easily to understand. Hersey made wonderful decisions in her choreography of twelve angry men in a very small room. Her blocking and direction of movement kept the idle atmosphere fresh throughout the entire production. Another vital element to the success of this marvelous dramatic play is Set Designer Matt McCormick’s exquisitely authentic juror room. From his checkered floor texture and three-sided table, and chairs, with three gorgeous windows, and a paint scheme that is visually satisfying, along with a vintage water cooler, it brings forth such a strong reality, that it definitely reinforces the believability of the actors’ performances. Hersey also surrounded herself with a very talented staff: Denni Don Hunting (Asst. Director), Kate Cosentino (Producer), Kerr Anderson (Set Construction), Bill Fishburn (Lighting), Gary Bolton (Sound), Kathy Verstraete (Costumes), and Karla Fishburn (Stage Manager).
What is amazing about this superb cast of players is that half of them are longtime veterans and the other half are new to the stage, but you wouldn’t ever know it by their combined efforts. There isn’t a weak link in the entire chain. From the very beginning of the play when they take a count of whether the young man is guilty or not guilty, where eleven of the jurors raise their hands in favor of the death sentence, and juror #8 raises his lonely hand upward for not guilty, you feel as if you’ve stopped watching a mere stage production, but our now observing inside the room of a real jury, juggling a young man’s life in their hands. The Old Town Playhouse has never been known for dramas, but always for its marvelous musicals, and lighthearted comedies. What a grand thought to think that this terrific production might be the spark that ignites a stream of other heart wrenching productions in the future.
I purposely decided not to individually embellish any of the wonderful twelve actors playing jurors, for to me, their unselfish, and ever giving talented union, creates a fixated singular image in my mind, as being only one entity. How good a performance could Juror #8, #3, or #4, and #7 be without the subtle tipping of the head of #2? Hands down, this is one dramatic production that will last in the memories of those who shared seeing Reginald Rose’s masterpiece at the Old Town Playhouse.