“The Cemetery Club,” in its opening weekend at Olympia Little Theatre, is about three widows who continue their long friendship by meeting in the cemetery where their husbands are buried.
“They go to talk to their former husbands, but a lot of it is socializing with their friends, too,” Toni Holm, president of the theater’s board, said.
It sounds like a play expressly designed to appeal to senior citizens, and in fact the theater company added the play to the season because the Primetime Players of Jubilee, the theater group at the Lacey 55-and-older golf community, wanted a chance to perform it for a wider audience.
But the themes of the play, which has been described as “Steel Magnolias” meets “The Golden Girls,” give it a broad appeal.
“The play is about friendship,” Holm said. “Relationships change, and your friends are still important. They’re what keep you going.”
When the Primetime director withdrew from the production, the theater company decided to go on with the show, and OLT regular Kendra Malm took charge.
At just over 50, Malm initially wasn’t sure how much appeal the play had for her. “It’s not a play that I had been particularly familiar with,” she said. “I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of directing it myself.”
But the play explores how the characters cope with the loss of their relationships, which is a theme that crosses age barriers, she said.
It also led her to think about the future.
“I’m starting to get these mailings from the AARP,” she said. “I had not even been thinking about retirement. Trying to understand these ladies’ perspectives has made me think a little bit more about my own future.”
Malm also appreciates the script. “It’s really quite a witty play. There’s a lot of wordplay. The women are old friends, so there’s a lot of bantering back and forth. That’s a lot of fun.
“It has funny parts, but it does also tug on your heartstrings.”
The creative set, designed by Matt Moeller, transforms from an apartment in Queens to a cemetery with a few clever props. Furniture is draped with ivy, and tombstones are added.
The play speaks to how friendships can remain at the center of life even through all of the changes that occur. So when a man — Sam, who owns a butcher shop — enters the picture, the women have their different responses.
“It’s pretty obvious that they’re going to be friends forever,” Holm said. ‘The Cemetery Club’
What: Olympia Little Theatre presents Ivan Menchell’s dramatic comedy about three widows coping with loss and finding comfort in friendship.
When: 7:55 p.m. Friday (June 13) and Saturday, plus June 20 and 21; 1:55 p.m. Sunday (June 15) plus June 22
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia
Tickets: $12-$14 at olympialittletheatre.org or Yenney Music
More information: olympialittletheatre.org or 360-786-9484