“Calendar Girls” by Tim Firth, directed by Michael Hartsfield and produced by Maureen Rogers, is now in view at Laurel Mill Playhouse on Main Street in Historical Laurel, MD.
“Calendar Girls” is based on a true story involving a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women who posed and printed a calendar with themselves in the nude to make money for charity. In the play, the women are members of the Women’s Institute or WI. WI’s are local women’s social clubs and not dissimilar to the Elk’s Clubs, only for women only. They also advocate for community and women’s causes.
In this WI there is a leader, Marie (Becky Batt) who is a little uptight and very into social protocols. On the other end is Chris (Sam David) who is a bit of a cut-up, making up Tai Chi movements, and often subverting Marie’s authority. Her good friend, Annie (Nina Harris) is married to John (Bill Brekke) who is ill with leukemia. Annie spends a great deal of her time now sitting of an uncomfortable settee at the local hospital while John gets chemotherapy. It is because of this, persuaded by Chris, that Annie and the rest of the women agree to forego the usual bucolic calendar they print for charity and to bare their bodies for a nude calendar to buy a new settee for the hospital. The women in the process not only bare their chests but their hearts and souls.
Despite the subject matter, the production is unobjectionable for most ages, probably not suitable for very young children, due to the expert staging of Hartsfield and the clever costumes of Marge McGugan. The lead up to the “nudity” is suspenseful. The result does not let you down and is complete with good humor.
For a rollicking good time come see Calendar Girls at LMP!
David’s portrayal of Chris is multi-dimensional. The actress’s most memorable scenes are when she daringly shows the other women her vision of the calendar and when she is forced to face her real motives for beginning this charitable endeavor in her scene with her friend Annie.
Harris shines in that scene as well, but her best moment, and for me, the pivotal scene in the play, is her poignant scene with her husband as she watches his health fail. Both Harris and Brekke have wonderful chemistry ably recreating this loving couple.
The rest of the WI post also give extraordinary performances. Mimi McGuinness as the parson’s piano playing daughter reveals more than body parts when she tells us about her own personal history. Celia is played by Cathy Holmes, the sultry member of the group, and she does justice to the character without making her a “hottie.” Celia’s other side is adroitly bared by Holmes as it is explained why the character hates the pretentious upper-class society. Hillary Glass is the self-effacing Ruth whose self-esteem is given a big boost by the calendar. Her confrontational scene with the make-up girl, Elaine (Dana Fleischer) catches you by surprise. The older retired school teacher, Jessie, is played by Maureen Rogers. Rogers gives a great performance as the wiser and wise-cracking senior member of the group, and her character is full of surprises. Batt’s Marie is just snooty enough to make us find her as irritating as she is to club’s women, and she also has a wonderful scene where she uncovers more of herself than she intends.
Supporting this wonderful group are Lenny Dinerman as Rod, Chris’ supportive husband, Marge McGugan as Lady Cravenshire, the dowager of the community, Anwar Al-Mallah as Lawrence, the photographer who agrees to tastefully photograph the ladies, Fleischer as Elaine and Jack Wassell as the TV producer. All give strong performances.
The set designed by Ilene Chalmers and Hartsfield perfectly create the WI meeting room. The projections, especially of the women in various poses of undress, is created to John Cholod, Patrick Pase and Hartfield.
For a rollicking good time come see “Calendar Girls” at LMP! It will expose you to an artistically endowed women group of women, and even a very capable few men.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes with an Intermission.