BWW Review: CALENDAR GIRLS at MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Everyone has those friends who have been with you through thick and thin, who know your ins and outs and for whom you'd do pretty much anything. Lon Barrera, in his Director's notes for MainStage Irving-Las Colinas' latest show CALENDAR GIRLS, calls them "framily," and this play is about the meaning of friendship and just how far you would go for those people in your circle.
The story takes place in the village of Knapely, Yorkshire, and we are introduced to the middle-aged ladies of the local Women's Institute (or WI, as it is often referred to in the show). Their regular meetings tend to consist of either participating in "traditional" women's activities (sewing, floral arranging, baking) or listening to lackluster speeches on incredibly dull topics. Despite the mundane nature of their group, it is obvious that a sisterly love has grown among its participants. After one of the members suffers a personal tragedy, an idea is formed to raise money: the annual fundraiser calendar, typically filled with photos of regional points of interest, will need a new theme and the WI will need to improve their sales performance. What sells best? Flesh. And who better to model ("nude, not naked") for the calendar than the women raising the money? As expected, this self-described "dramedy" is filled with scenes of hilarity, but also has some very tender moments.
The six women who guide us through the CALENDAR GIRLS journey (Sherri Small as Annie, Carrie Blake as Ruth, Sid Curtis as Chris, Lindsay Hayward as Celia, Lana K. Hoover as Jessie, and Sheila D. Rose as Cora) must be commended for their bravery in vulnerability, and not only for appearing without a stitch of clothing onstage. Each one has an opportunity to share their character's weakness or insecurity, and the actresses do so with honesty and ease. The remainder of the cast also do a nice job in supporting the storytelling.
There are some weaknesses in the show that detract from the experience, however. The theatre has opted to forego mics for the cast and, when combined with inconsistent accents, the already unfamiliar British words can be difficult to understand. In addition, for a show that has basically one setting, the stage feels very empty and the set seems more symbolic than substantial.
That being said, CALENDAR GIRLS is still an enjoyable evening and someone looking for a charming story of friendship and what is truly important in this life would do well to see this show. The theme of accepting yourself, no matter your looks or your age or your other thousands of imperfections, is one that we can all bear to hear again and again. CALENDAR GIRLS continues through April 1st. Tickets and more information can be found at www.irvingtheatre.org.