Preview: 'The Cemetery Club' reconvenes in Pittsburgh

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"The Cemetery Club" was originally set in New York, but when the drama about three widows moved from Broadway to the big screen, it also moved to Pittsburgh, which gives it some 'Burgh roots to go with its latest venue, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.

Playwrights' board president Michael Ramsay visited Hickory, Washington County, in March to see the Old Schoolhouse Players' production of the play and resolved to bring it to the Downtown company's Liberty Avenue theater. Director Marcus Muzopappa was delighted at the prospect, and more so when his stars -- Claire Fraley, Lynn Franks and Arlene Merryman -- said they were able to reprise their roles.

'The Cemetery Club'

Where: Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, 937 Liberty Ave.

When: Aug. 15-24. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.

Tickets: $20, $15 students and senior citizens at the door or www.pghplaywrights.com.

"I have the great good fortune to work with a cast that has such great chemistry," the director said. "The three -- they've all worked together before, but never all three together at once. The chemistry is just marvelous and it reads on the stage. The fact that they are playing friends, it just sweetens it."

Olympia Dukakis, Diane Ladd and Ellen Burstyn played the lead roles in the 1993 movie that moved the setting from Forest Hills -- the neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. -- to Pittsburgh, and filmed here following the play's Broadway run in 1990. The dramedy follows three Jewish widows, the surviving halves of three couples and longtime best friends, as they meet once a month to pay their respects to their husbands, who are all buried in the same cemetery.

Playwright Ivan Menchell is a prolific writer-producer of television shows such as "The Nanny" and "Jonas," and with co-writer Clare Sera is scheduled to have a 2015 opening for the movie "Blended," starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. After a decade hiatus from the stage, Mr. Menchell also wrote the books for the Broadway musicals "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Bonnie & Clyde."

"The Cemetery Club" represents an early work that lives on in regional theaters nationwide.

"The only enemy in this script is death; it's a story about how death affects people," Mr. Muzopappa said. "It's funny, too. I would like to know more about Menchell's other work, because this is so perfectly written. It's a roller-coaster that takes you to the depths of soul-crushing pain and then lifts you up. It's good theater."

theater

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.


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