It seems Berice Rosenberg has once again found herself smack dab in the middle of things.
Rosenberg, who has played numerous roles in community theater productions spanning three decades, assumes a dual role as actress and co-director in Hastings Community Theatre’s latest dramatic comedy production, “The Cemetery Club,” opening at 7:30 p.m. Valentine’s Day Feb. 14 and continuing Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., Feb. 16, 2:30 p.m., and repeating the following weekend in identical time slots on Feb. 21-23 at Hastings Community Theatre, 515 S. Fourth Ave.
Set in both a cemetery and living room, the production brings together real-life friends Mindy Mangus, Connie Sheehy and Rosenberg to portray longtime Jewish friends Lucile, Doris and Ida, a group of widows who meet monthly for tea before heading off to visit their respective husbands’ graves.
Ida (Rosenberg), whose husband died more than two years earlier, believes it may be time for her to start another chapter in her love life. A chance meeting with Sam (Roger Doerr), the local butcher, at the cemetery reaffirms her decision to begin dating again. Fearing her romance may threaten their monthly ritual and friendships, Lucile (Mangus) and Doris (Sheehy) plot together to undermine their friend’s efforts at finding love again.
The frank and meddlesome conversations that follow — delivered in typical New York Jewish conversational style — evoke both laughter and moments of emotional turmoil as Ida figures out what her friends are up to.
Co-directed by Rosenberg’s husband, Chuck Rosenberg, and produced by Donna Hastings, the five-person cast includes Cindy Glen as Mildred.
“The show is written to be a comedy, but there are some touching moments in there, as well,” Chuck Rosenberg said. “The dialogue the widows have with New York-type Jewish accents has a lot of funny stuff in it.
“The actors have worked together in shows before, so there’s good camaraderie between them. The audience is going to find that very entertaining.”
For Berice, finding the right delivery to define her character was paramount to pulling off the role. Her choice of voice is cracking up her co-stars.
“The girls kid me quite a bit because they say I sound like Edith Bunker,” she said. “For me, that was the easiest rhythm, the most dramatic change from my own voice.”
Sharing the stage with genuine friends makes the friendships portrayed in the production all-the-more believable, she said.
“Any time Connie, Mindy and I get on-stage together, we have a blast,” she said. “In real life, we have been friends for almost 20 years, so we bring that to the stage. We absolutely enjoy working together.
“As an audience member, you’ll feel that connection because we really are friends. We have fun every night just pushing each other’s buttons, for real and with the script.”
Both Rosenbergs say they’re delighted by how their custom-designed set turned out. Chuck, who has assembled more than 40 such sets for community theater plays, believes a memorable set gives instant credibility to a production, setting the tone for a memorable evening.
“We really tried to make this set one of the best ones we’ve done,” he said. “I think the audience will be pretty impressed with how it plays into the show.”
In keeping with the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the first 50 women in attendance on opening night will receive a rose, with wine and light hors d’oeuvres served at intermission.
For reservations, call 402-463-1500.
To read more, see Tuesday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>>