Tim Firth’s play Calendars Girls packed the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre at the Warner Theatre in Torrington on opening night. Excitement was palpable for the play with a dynamite cast, one that features some of the finest performers in community theater, and the audience gave the actors all the support they needed to do the play justice.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that “naked” means vulnerable and “nude” means without clothing. With that definition in place, these superior actresses were never naked. Confident and experienced, they posed artistically – nude. Well sort of, director Lea Dmytryck found very clever ways to keep the nudity suggestive rather than flagrant. For instance, one actress held two balls of yarn in front of her breasts, which did the trick as far as revealing too much. During this scene, the audience cheered the women on and applauded with gusto.
However, the magic that should have electrified the theater continually was not present throughout the entire show. Some of the fault lies within the play itself. There’s just not enough drama to sustain the show once the women “bare” all. Mind you, the movie, which came first, and the play are based on a true event. However, several times it looked as though the play was over, but dragged on instead.
In comparison with The Full Monty, in which men strip because they are out of work and want to show their women that they are strong, The Full Monty is the richer script.
The Warner production started slowly with a few awkward entrances. The pace was off and it was occasionally difficult to hear the soft-spoken actors. This is actually a large “black box” type theater, with the farthest seats from the stage at quite a distance. However, no matter where one sits, one should be able to clearly hear the words that are spoken. Put a club of women together who disagree on a project and there are usually fireworks, but the women of the WI (Women’s Institute) are more smoke than fire.
The premise for the play is that women who belong to the WI want to raise money to buy a settee for a hospital waiting room. One of the women lost her husband and had spent many uncomfortable hours in the hospital. This charitable purpose unites the women. Instead of an annual traditional calendar, they want to shake things up a bit. And boy, do they ever. The women have disagreements and personalities clash, but ultimately there are enough of them to make the calendar a reality.
All of these actors deserve kudos. They are all courageous. There was some overacting, but overall, they did a good job. Lydia Babbitt and Val Vitalo are terrific. They are the most real and believable of the women. Ingrid Smith, Beth Steinberg, Laura Garger, and Heather Henry perform well, as do Chanel Erasmus, Hayley Kelley, Judith Pernal, and Colleen Renzullo. Craig Clavette, Bob McGowan, Tim Phillips and Cole Sutton take on the male roles.
The creative team has devised some flowery props and handles the set and lights well. The production runs through March 19. Box office: warnertheatre.org or 860-489-7180.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]