Magazine article The Nation

The Cemetery Club

Magazine article The Nation

The Cemetery Club

Article excerpt

THOMAS M. DISCH

The Cemetery Club is a sentimental, ethnic comedy of a sort that used to be a staple on Broadway, one that caters to audiences of a certain age (40 and older). Driving Miss Daisy was the last such, and Steel Magnolias aimed at very nearly the same audience demographically. Like both of those, The Cemetery Club has been snapped up by Hollywood, despite a thumbs-down from Frank Rich that was the critical equivalent of attempted homicide. Rich found the jokes familiar and the plot too sitcom-innocuous, and it made him furious. Well, if we were all that virtuous, there'd be no more cakes and ale, and Broadway would be yet more moribund than it is already.

The Cemetery Club is about Jewish widows in Forest Hills who are sufficiently comfortable in their bereavement that they have nothing to do but visit their spousal graves and kibitz over coffee. Eileen Heckart is the brassy one, hiding her grief behind an immense fur coat. Elizabeth Franz is still Young in Spirit and game for another try, this time with the local butcher, played by Ed Koch look-alike Lee Wallace. And Doris Belack is the most cynical and (behind that) grief-stricken. It's touching, funny, well performed, predictable (I knew one of the three had to die by the last scene; I was wrong about which one), and ultimately reassuring, which is a valid purpose for art.

My companion to The Cemetery Club was a woman of suitable maturity, a suburban address and married lo these many years. She remarked at the intermission that she found the play enjoyable, albeit because of its theme "upsetting. …

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