As summer draws to an end, Laurel Mill Playhouse is offering up “The Girls of the Garden Club” by John Patrick, a delightful comedy about the joys, frustrations, and drama of gardening. It’s such a pleasure to see a play that predominantly features older women in starring roles and these ladies proved that age has only sharpened their acting chops and sense of humor.
…a funny and unusual play and an extremely entertaining night of theatre that you won’t want to miss.
Sam David stars as gardener extraordinaire Rhoda, an avid member of the Garden Club and eagerly plotting a coup to overthrow the current Madame President, played with a hilariously bougie sensibility by Barbara Gasper. Rhoda’s desire for the presidency isn’t born out of mean-spiritedness or a thirst for power; no, she wants a greenhouse and believes she can force her husband to buy her one when she becomes president. David gave a powerhouse performance with special attention to the timing of her movements and phrases for maximum effect. Gasper gave me the best of “Mean Girls” vibes with her evil intentions masked by a phony smile and topped with perfectly pronounced French phrases.
The bulk of the play is based on the comedic personalities of the characters and the ladies (and two gentlemen) are fun to watch as they ham up their characters’ particular quirks. My favorite by far was Shirley Bishop as Birdie who delivered her lines with perfect comedic timing and had the audience in stitches playing the most elderly member of the club who was simultaneously battling hemorrhoids and partial deafness.
Other standouts were Maureen Rogers as the best friend and down-to-earth club member Cora (the most normal one of the zany characters which made her the perfect foil to everyone else’s antics) and Jim Berard as the silently long-suffering husband Leonard. I also greatly enjoyed Patti Restivo as the very nerdy and grammatically correct club secretary Clara and Becky Batt as DeDe who squeals enthusiastically every other minute – when she’s not talking to the plants, that is.
This is a one-room play and the set (designed by director Larry Simmons) was filled with a bevy of fancy froufrou furniture (befitting a cultured lady of Garden Club society in the 1970s, at least in her own imagination!) and plants bursting out of every corner. The costumes designed by Marge McGugan added some subtle humor to capture the flavor of Garden Club ladies. For example, while the characters are in more casual dress in the first scene between friends, everyone “dresses up” into fancier clothes for the actual club meeting, which made me chuckle. And, for the final Garden Show, every member wore something with an elegant floral print.
The end of the plot gets a little silly, but this show is more about enjoying the crazy characters rather than an elaborately heavy or realistic plot, so I didn’t really mind the play’s conclusion. I was entertained and laughing from beginning to end of this fabulously fun play made all the more whimsical by Laurel Mill Playhouse’s residency in a historic hundred-year-old building on Main Street. The theater seats are, while old-fashioned (which fits the building’s atmosphere perfectly), actual theater seats that properly flip down and are nicely padded – a surprisingly refined touch for a community theater and it added a nice bit of charm to the already enjoyable evening. Parking is available both on Main Street and in the next-door church lot.
I highly recommend “The Girls of the Garden Club” by Laurel Mill Playhouse as a funny and unusual play and an extremely entertaining night of theatre that you won’t want to miss.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with 2 intermissions.
“The Girls of the Garden Club” by Laurel Mill Playhouse runs through October 6, 2019. For more information, click here.