Calendar Girls, the third play of Lakeside Little Theatre’s 53rd season, has traveled an unusual path having first been a film, written by Tim Firth, who also co-wrote the screenplay.
The bulk of the story takes place in the church hall of the WI, or Women’s Institute, an organization founded in the early part of the 20th century to encourage women’s community involvement while the men were at war. Apparently, women throughout Canada, where it originated, and the United Kingdom still take part, making homemade jam and competing in sponge cake baking contests. Post-feminist it’s not.
We first meet our group of gals attempting to do Tai Chi – this is the 21st century, after all. Chris, played by Collette Clavadetscher, leads the unenthusiastic group with milking yak pose, but the ladies are having none of it. Nor are they terribly thrilled about listening to a talk arranged by Marie, played by LLT regular Georgette Richmond as a kind of Mother Superior of the club. No one seems to take kindly to Marie, but they take orders from her regardless. So, no one is too upset when Brenda, Susan Quiriconi, has to cut her broccoli presentation short due to a blown fuse.
The ladies respond more positively to the arrival of John, played by Greg Clarke, armed with his very special punch – after all the ladies do enjoy an afternoon tipple. John is the husband of Annie, Debra Bowers, and it is soon revealed that John has been diagnosed with leukemia. As the story evolves, John’s health deteriorates. Clarke convincingly plays a well-mannered man losing his battle with life. His death propels the play’s plot.
It is quickly established that Chris and Annie are best friends and enjoy a close relationship. The other women, Cora (Wendy Petersen); Celia (Lupita Campbell); Ruth, (Jean Llewellyn); and Jessie (Chris L’Ecluse) seem detached from one another, as if their lives only cross paths when they are at the WI. With the exception of Petersen, these actresses are making their debut appearances at LLT in this production.