Calendar Girls jpg

Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls, which opens Theatre on the Square’s 2014-2015 season, has an interesting distinction. It is that rare theatre script based on a movie’s screenplay (usually the opposite of that takes place). Furthermore, the screenplay was based on a real life event in which several ladies from a Women’s Institute (a WI, in the play) in Yorkshire, England produced a 2000 calendar for charity featuring themselves in provocative poses centered around WI activities such as tea serving, flower arranging and baked goods.

For me, Firth, who co-wrote the movie version, gives forth here a rather winding, wryly British, and uneven tale which reaches it’s climax before intermission – after which his plotline just seems to shatter into small pieces of semi-dramatic subplots. It seems to me to have little purpose except to allow the unusual circumstance of nearly naked ladies onstage in a “mainstream” story.

The “nakedness” is tastefully enough done – with adequate draping and coverage, and I suppose the idea of these proper English ladies disrobing for a good cause created a big sensation in the early Y2K. But I think it is difficult to administer similar thrills with that same ploy in the decade that follows. The whole idea seemed rather silly to my sensibilities and, coupled with the other problems of the script, left my mind stymied at times. Granted, I am not a big fan of wry British humor, so much of which seems to be lost in the translation – but I am a big fan of our local theatre efforts and sadly it is difficult to place this play on a par with much of what I have seen of late. To be fair, some other audience members seemed to relish the action – so I am sure a lot of what I felt is my individual taste and sense of theatre.

It’s mainly the script that is my problem here. I think the cast gave all it had (and more in some cases) with energetic performances. Director Lori Raffel has gathered a talented group with full resumes and they seem well-suited for their roles. There just was not much to work with in terms of a script, in my opinion.

Kate Hinman, Laura Baltz, Nan Macy, Arlene Haskin, Vickie Smith and Risa Krauter in TOTS' "Calendar Girls"

Kate Hinman, Laura Baltz, Nan Macy, Arlene Haskin, Vickie Smith and Risa Krauter in TOTS’ “Calendar Girls”


Regardless, Laura Baltz, Arlene Haskin, Kate Hinman, Risa Krauter, Nan Macy and Vickie Smith all deserve praise for their efforts. They strive to play the calendar participants with adept characterizations, though their British accents take some getting used to. Bridget Schlebecker and Maura Giles add their essential roles to the mix with confident turns; and Paul Haskin, Tim Latimer, and Mark Peed (Mark in a double role) take on the male characters in good style, while Lori Raffel provides a deft cameo. All the action takes place on Ms. Raffel’s efficient set design and a dizzying number of costumes are used, assembled by the cast, providing the sense of time passing.

The bottom line for me, I guess, is this – if you like wry British styled humor (as opposed to the broader Monty Python styled stuff), if you are lured to the theatre to see skin – albeit mostly covered, if you especially like the edgier fare that TOTS is most famous for, then Calendar Girls is in your wheel-house. Go and enjoy! For me – I hope to see the members of this very talented cast in other plays sometime soon – as this one was just not my cup of tea.

Calendar Girls continues through October 11 at Theatre on the Square in the Mass. Ave District. You can find information for tickets, show dates and the coming TOTS season at http://www.tots.org or by calling 317-685-8687.

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