New Yorker Ivan Menchell hit a gold mine when he tapped into family traditions to create “The Cemetery Club,” presently onstage at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. His endearing and rueful look at the habits and inhibitions of three recent widows trying to carry on without their spouses engenders chuckles of recognition from any vantage point.

Determined to honor the memories of their husbands, Ida (Linda L. Rand), Lucille (Diane Nissim) and Doris (Flora Leisure Rubenhold) have established the habit of visiting the men’s gravesites once a month. Before long we find that their memories are as complicated as their marriages had been. After a year, Ida feels guilty about wanting to move on, while Lucille makes no bones about her efforts to snag the next “Mister.” Doris, however, has interpreted her marriage vow as “death will not part us.” It would be better yet in her opinion if the other two women adhere to the same code. However, the allure of the butcher, Sam (Mike Firek) — also recently  widowed — proves too much for Ida. Her attempt to defect from the club provokes jealousy in Lucille and downright dirty tactics from Doris. Enter Mildred (Jane Park), Doris’ secret weapon.

The storyline might have been deadly if not for the light and loving touch of playwright Menchell. Sierra Madre has contributed a robust cast of seasoned performers, shepherded by veteran director Kim Smith through this warm and mirthful look at one of life’s most emotional transitions. Rand’s truthful portrayal as Ida is contagious; Nissim is all bluster as Lucille; and Rubenfold utilizes her generous demeanor to reveal the pain of evil schemer Doris. Park bounces onto the stage in her cameo as the “other woman,” while Firek’s Sam seems bewildered by all the feminine attention.

David Calhoun has added his expert set design to Sierra Madre’s usual excellent technical support, while director Smith contributed lighting design. Sierra Madre Playhouse regular Lois Tedrow’s costumes greatly added to character delineation, and Steve Shaw’s sound (especially the birds in the cemetery) helped create the landscape.

—Leigh Kennicott


“The Cemetery Club” continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through April 14 at Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Tickets are $12 to $20. Call (626) 256-3809, or visit .