Review: ‘Calendar Girls’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

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The Colonial Players’ production of Calendar Girls is a screamingly funny, yet poignant comedy. Written by Tim Firth, who co-wrote the 2003 movie, and directed by Debbie Barber-Eaton, it’s an incredibly successful melding of talented acting and directing, creative props and staging to create an evening of laughs and tears.

Back Row, L to R: Rosalie Daelemans (Elaine), Mary Watko (Jessie), Lynn Garretson (Celia), Kathy Jones (Lady Cravenshire/Brenda). Middle Row, L to R: Laura Gayvert (Chris), Marti Pogonowski (Annie), Karen Lambert (Ruth), and Darice Clewell (Marie). Bottom Row, L to R: Eric Lund (Rod), Rick Estberg (John), and Jason Vellon (Lawrence/Liam) . Photo courtesy of Colonial Players of Annapolis.

Set in Yorkshire, the play features the members of the local branch of the Women’s Institute, or WI, as they prepare and publicize an unusual “alternative calendar” to raise funds. Boundaries are broken, and friendships are tested, all the while plenty of quips are tossed about. The cast is truly talented, working well together, and each shining during their own individual moments. They tease each other, argue, and support each other like good friends always do.

Laura Gayvert plays Chris, the driving force of this group, as independent-minded and outspoken. One of her best moments is her defense of the calendar, full of passion and humor, as she explains, “I hate baking, and I’m crap at knitting.” Her skill at convincing the other women to participate in the initial scheme, and the resulting publicity, is a pleasure to watch.

Marti Pogonowski portrays Annie with a sweetness that belies a quiet strength. One of her strongest performances is her support of her husband, fear and grief breaking through her love. Another powerful moment for both Pognowski and Gayvert comes in an argument the two have, Pognowski’s anger and resentment bursting forth, with Gayvert ferociously defending herself. Motives are questioned on both sides, and no one is without blame.

Karen Lambert is hilariously funny as Ruth, playing her as quiet, meek, and submissive. She gets big laughs as she tries to please everyone in a group of opinionated women. She also has a really funny hare-raisng moment. She gives a powerful, poignant performance when her fears about holding onto her wandering husband come to the surface. Her style is quiet, but filled with great humor.

Shannon Benil is Cora, the church organist, with a bubbly and loving style, as well as a sly subversive streak. Gospel and rhythm and blues comes through in her piano playing of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or “Stormy Weather.” Her most powerful moment comes when talking about her past, and the hopes for her daughter, her sadness and vulnerability shining through.

Lynn Garretson portrays Celia as a fun-loving, easy-going woman, who’s not afraid to challenge convention. She can hold her own, though, responding to a charge of offending people with “some people need offending. I’ve spent half my life in the company of people who bloody well need offending.” It is her strongest moment.

Mary Fawcett Watko plays Jessie with spirit and fire. She gives a passionate attack against age discrimination, strongly defending her right to participate. During the calendar shoot, she also delivers one of the funniest lines, and gets one of the best reactions.

Darice Clewell plays Marie, the WI branch leader, as proper and conservative, even boring. She is the foil for the other women, who find ways to quietly rebel against her guest speakers. Her vulnerable, emotional side comes out in the second act, where she gains sympathy and understanding.

Rick Estberg is John, Annie’s husband, with great humor, matching wits with these strong women. Although he doesn’t appear often, his presence is felt onstage; he’s the inspiration behind the entire scheme. He gives a stoic, dignified performance that is heartrending.

Eric Lund plays Rod, Chris’ husband, with good humor and enthusiasm, bursting forth with good cheer and love. He and Gayvert have great chemistry, playful and tender with each other. When tensions arise between them, the disappointment is clear on his face.

Jason Vellon is a hoot in dual roles, Lawrence the photographer and Liam the commercial director. He gives a great, intimidated performance as Lawrence, nervously stuttering during his first conversation with the women. Entering for the photo shoot, he keeps his head down at first. His reaction to Jessie’s photo is perhaps the funniest. As Liam, he is brash, loud, and condescending, casually cutting down the women with just a few choice words.

L to R: Mary Watko (Jessie), Darice Clewell (Marie), Laura Gayvert (Chris), and Marti Pogonowski (Annie). Photo courtesy of The Colonial Players of Annapolis.

Edd Miller’s excellent set is composed of several large trunks that hold props, which come together to form a hill. Two small chairs bookend a nightstand, and a piano is on the other end, with folding chairs located throughout.

In Shirley Panek’s Lighting Design the lights shift throughout to capture the changing mood of the play. At a tender moment, sunflowers appear on the hill. Fran Marchand and Paige Myers’ Costume Design are simple and effective. For the Christmas event, both Celia and Chris wear a short skirt Santa outfit, showing off their legs. For the Spring Fling, the women wear big hats and floral dresses.

Director Debbie Barber-Eaton perfectly choreographs ll the actors’ complex movements, making them feel natural and easy. The highlight of the play is the calendar photo shoot, involving large fans, a big sheet, and other carefully placed props. Watching that scene unfold is sheer joy.

Colonial Players of Annapolis’ Calendar Girls is a funny, moving show about friendship, courage, passion, and risk-taking. Be sure to catch it!

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Calendar Girls plays trough March 11, 2017 at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 268-7373, or purchase them online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Calendar Girls plays from February 17 through March 11, 2017 at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis. For tickets, call the box office at 410-268-7373 or purchase online.

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One Response to Review: ‘Calendar Girls’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

  1. Micheal Rhian Driscoll February 21, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    Nice to see some past friends still in the game.