Sally Savoie, Sandy Mascow and Sue Chekaway play three widows in the Birmingham Village Players’ production of “The Cemetery Club” weekends March 8-24.

Sally Savoie, Sandy Mascow and Sue Chekaway play three widows in the Birmingham Village Players’ production of “The Cemetery Club” weekends March 8-24.

Photo by Paul Manoian Photography

Village Players present ‘The Cemetery Club’

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 20, 2024


BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Village Players are performing “The Cemetery Club,” by Ivan Menchell, March 8-24.

This is the story of three Jewish widows who regularly visit their husbands’ graves at the local cemetery. However, once Sam, a man visiting his late wife’s grave, enters the picture, friendships are threatened, and romance is sparked.

“The Cemetery Club” is what director Russell Boyle called a “dramedy.” It deals with serious issues of loss and falling in love, but these emotional themes are paired with humor throughout the play.

Boyle was reunited with Ron Otulakowski, the director of his high school freshman and sophomore shows, for the production.

Otulakowski directed theater at Cass Technical High School in Detroit for 43 years. Once he retired, he remained active in the community theater scene.

“It was so exciting that not only was I reconnected with somebody who saw a light in me and brought it out, but he also was such a good actor, and he ended up being the perfect actor for that particular role,” Boyle said.

Boyle emphasized that Otulakowski earned the role based on his talents and his compatibility with the role of Sam.

Boyle’s lifelong friend Andrea Krass-McDonald is the assistant director of the production. The two met while attending Wayne State University about 32 years ago.

“We really bounce off each other creatively,” Boyle said. “We both come from the same school of acting, so we have a similar language when it comes to addressing the cast.”

Boyle said he has been impressed with how well the cast has connected with their characters and one another.

“I kind of forget that we’re doing a play when I see the artists up there doing their thing,” Boyle said. “I feel like when people come to see, the audience, they’re gonna feel like they’re in the living room, hanging out with old friends. And that’s the spirit of the play, because it is about friendship first and foremost.”

For some of the actors, this production is just like hanging out with old friends. Bloomfield Hills residents Sue Chekaway, playing Lucille, and Sally Savoie, playing Ida, have both been a part of the Birmingham Village Players for many years. In a production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” they played sisters.

“We have a lot of fun, but we definitely get the job done,” Savoie said.

Savoie said they are constantly heightening each other’s performances by giving back and forth to each other while portraying their characters.

“It makes it a very comfortable place to be when you have to play friends onstage and you respect and trust the person, just like you would a good friend,” Chekaway said.

Chekaway has spent a lot of time thinking about the character Lucille. She is reprising the role after 16 years.

She said that while Lucille is one of the most humorous characters in the play, she has a lot of depth to her as a heartbroken woman.

“Comedy is pretty much my forte, but with this role, I get to do some dramatic acting, like cry onstage and things like that,” Chekaway said. “It’s very fulfilling for an actor to get to do all of that in one character that they’re playing.”

Macomb Township’s Sandy Mascow is also reprising her role, as Doris, originally playing her with the Fenton Village Players in 2015.

Savoie said there are three new actors to the Village Players in this play.

“The Village Players is a very open and welcoming group, and I just would love everyone to understand that,” Savoie said. “We welcome everyone, and we kind of call ourselves a family.”

This performance is presented with the support of their Red Carpet Sponsor of the Season, Ameritax Plus of Berkley.

The public can see the show at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays March 8-9, 15-16, and 22-23, and at 2 p.m. Sundays March 10, 17 and 24.

To reserve $25 tickets, call the box office at (248) 644-2075 or visit