By Jamie Bullins

Lincoln Community Playhouse, Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7:30 pm. 

Now you may have seen the film (Miramax, 2003, by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth), and you may think therefore you know what the play is about. Not so fast, you may be wrong. Yes, naked ladies, or better said, nude. That happens. No additional spoilers here.  But that’s not what this story is about. It’s absolutely about loss, love, and the strong bond of friendship. That may be what brought about the numerous sniffles heard at the closing of the play after the gasps and laughter died down. Not to mention the number of times I heard the word “brave” from the audience around me at intermission. Bravo ladies, bravo. 

I won’t spoil anything specifically about the plot, but we all have (hopefully) experienced a passionate love, and a super-close friendship that survives the up and downs of time. Loss is also something familiar to everyone, unfortunately. Additional life lessons of selfishness, trust, and motives are tossed in the basket as well. 

The ensemble is led by these 6 ladies of the WI (Women’s Institute), and a great part of the joy of the story is getting to know each of them and how they fit together, which probably (definitely) wouldn’t have happened outside this organization. How each of them got there is distinct and creates a great dynamic within the group. 

The principal conflict within the group lies with Chris (Kay Siebler) and Annie (Deanna Walz) and it plays out with great energy, basically driving the story. There are a lot of other things going on in the production and they each add their own juicy bits. 

I spoke of energy before, and there’s a lot of it. There are certain scenes that I need not describe where it peaks, as you’ll see. Chris and Annie, again, lead the way, but the other four travel right alongside and keep up quite well. Celia (Amy Koepke) prances about remarkably, and Cora (Gretchen Foley) relishes her great number of punchlines without distraction. Jessie (Cecilia Burkhart) embodies the retired teacher we all know and love, and Ruth (Elizabeth Veverka) keeps it pretty low-key until the moments that she doesn’t: no spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m talking about. The remainder of the cast is rounded out with a lot of heart. Kudos especially to Brian Foley for that monologue. 

The technical elements support the story well, with just a few locations: most of the action takes place in a church hall, and then outside on a hill, providing a nice open look on the stage. It was entertaining to watch the well-choreographed full changes on stage. The costumes (and absence of, wink, wink) help to define the separate personalities of the ladies and make for great ensemble looks as well. I would like to point out that the lighting was pretty swell here, especially the theatrical moments that pulled folks out of the reality of the story to create metaphysical looks and moments. Nice work Kathleen Turner. 

You should definitely make sure to catch Calendar Girls. Especially if you would like a good laugh and cry in the same evening. Thank you, Lincoln Community Playhouse, keep telling your stories.

If you go: You can catch Calendar Girls October 15-17, 22-24, Fridays/Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online.  

Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now. 

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