ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Runs Now thru 5/31 at Hale Centre Theatre

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Runs Now thru 5/31 at Hale Centre Theatre

Abby and Martha are the sweetest sisters you'll ever meet, but sipping their elderberry wine can have deadly consequences. Hale Centre Theatre (HCT), Utah's Premiere Family Theatre, is bringing back Arsenic and Old Lace, which runs tonight, April 25, through Saturday, May 31.

The classic comedy tells the story of the insane, mischievous Brewster family, headed by elderly sisters who, unbeknownst to the rest of the family, are charitably killing lonely old men. Hale Centre Theatre's intimate center stage design will draw everyone into the sisters' cozy living room as it allows audience members to feel as if they are a part of the delightfully funny, eccentric Brewster family.

"We all live in families with eccentricities and peculiar personalities which we love and deplore. It's the oddities of each member of the Brewster family that captivate audiences and transforms the play into a timeless classic," said Sally Dietlein, HCT vice president and artistic director.

Director Jennifer Parker Hohl's vision brings Joseph Kesselring's Arsenic and Old Lace, which debuted in 1941, to life for a modern audience by drawing out the universal qualities in the production.

"There's a reason why shows like this are so successful and continue to appeal to audiences. Not only are they funny and well written, but the dynamics of the Brewster family resonate with everyone," said Hohl. "Plus we've put together a killer cast. As a director, if you can cast well you can create this skeleton of ideas and let the actors go to town. When you have such good people, they come with their own ideas and I become more of an editor."

In Arsenic and Old Lace, the spinsters' nephew Mortimer gets the shock of his life when he comes home to announce his engagement, and stumbles into a homicidal mess made by his aunts, and brothers Teddy and Jonathan.

The set, which Dietlein calls "nauseatingly pink," perfectly recreates the living room of spinster sisters, with a few touches, like taxidermy and antique chandeliers, which Hohl said are subtly creepy. The plush magenta velvet chairs complementing the rose tufted couch makes it all the easier for the audience to feel like they are just sitting in an older relative's living room. It's all a stark contrast to the dark deeds that happen in the home by the ditsy but deadly pair.

Creating the costumes has also been a fun exercise in history, as most people in the show are dressed in clothes from 1941, but the Brewster sisters are still stuck in the lacey, Victorian style of their youth.

Brooke Wilkins, Arsenic costume designer, said she's enjoyed the challenge of getting the vintage pieces just right, particularly when it comes to getting the mourning clothing to be appropriately somber while still giving the blacks depth on stage.

Part of the fun of this show has been getting to work with her mother, Melany Wilkins, who plays Martha Brewster. Brooke thinks her desire to costume her mother might have been the incentive Melany needed to audition.

Hale Centre Theatre's Arsenic and Old Lace features Justin Bruse and Paul Cartwright as Mortimer Brewster; Linda Jean Stephenson and Chris Brown as Abby Brewster; and Claire Spencer and Melany Wilkins as Martha Brewster. Set design is by Kacey Udy, with costume design by Brooke Wilkins, sound design by Shane Steel, lighting design by Adam Flitton and hair and make-up design by Krissa Lent.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, April 25 to May 31, with Saturday matinees at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and several weekday matinees at 4 p.m. Admission is $27 for adults and $16 for children ages 5 to 11. Tickets may be purchased online at www.hct.org, via telephone at (801) 984-9000, or at the Hale Centre Theatre box office, 3333 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City.

In conjunction with the production, HCT is honoring the Junior League of Salt Lake City as part of its "HCT Applauds" program to spotlight other non-profit organizations making a difference in the community. The Junior League of Salt Lake City is committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action, education and leadership of trained volunteers.

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