BWW Interviews: Washington County Playhouse's ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Full of Old Laughs and New Surprises

BWW Interviews: Washington County Playhouse's ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Full of Old Laughs and New Surprises

In the Washington County Playhouse production of Arsenic and Old Lace, the elderly Brewster sisters appear to be your typical sweet old ladies, whose hobbies include knitting, church social visits and.... murdering their dinner guests.

"This is a classic comedy that has stood the test of time. It just never gets old. You just can't help falling in love with the two aunts, no matter how unorthodox their 'hobby' - and our two actresses playing the characters are absolutely wonderful and have been a joy to work with" said Jeff Wine, who plays Jonathon Brewster.

Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by Jeff Czerbinski and running through April 27, is a classic American black comedy, immortalized in popular culture by the 1944 Frank Capra film. Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic, discovers that Abby and Martha, his sweet spinster aunts, have a wicked hobby of poisoning lonely old men they invite to dinner. His slightly eccentric family also includes a brother who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and another brother who can't seem to shake his evil looks or mannerisms strongly resembling Boris Karloff.

"The most enjoyable aspect of rehearsals has been exploring my character of Jonathon Brewster, bringing him to life and making him a real person. I've seen productions where he's been played as more of a caricature. It's my job to make him believable as a real person but to still give the audience the 'creepy factor' they expect with this character" said Wine.

"From a directorial perspective, enjoyment is the result of casting. When we get the right people in the right parts, and they understand their characters and the theme of the piece that we develop, that is magic. This is not an easy piece to put up. Pace and timing are critical. Virtually all the characters in Arsenic and Old Lace are rich with differing perspectives that make the play like a good wine: complex and satisfying. In fact, the theme we developed in this is about life being a personal point of view, varying from one to the other" said director Jeff Czerbinski, who also plays a cameo role as Lt. Rooney.

Since Arsenic and Old Lace is an American theater classic, audiences may have certain expectations or ideas going into the production. However, the Washington County Playhouse production, based in a more intimate cross between a black box and theater-in-the-round setting, will offer several surprises for audience members to experience.

"This is a unique production in that we're not producing the play with the typical two-story set. I know some people are wondering how it can be done. CAN be done, so I can't wait for people to see how we've pulled it off" said Wine.

"The actors and actresses are also up against audience familiarity of the play due to the Frank Capra movie starring Cary Grant and Josephine Hull. I encourage the cast to NOT watch the movie because I wouldn't want any "borrowing" from the film version in our production on the Spickler Stage at the Washington County Playhouse" said Czerbinski.

The Arsenic and Old Lace cast features Vicki Leisher as Abby Brewster, Sue Eckel as Martha Brewster, Seth Thompson as Mortimer Brewster, Tom Doty as Teddy Brewster, David Keye as Dr. Einstein, Amie Tweit as Elaine Harper, Andre Brown as Officer Brophy, Hampton Cade as Officer Klein, Jeffry Perry Czerbinski as Officer O'Hara, Michael Heyser as Dr. Harper/ Mr. Witherspoon and Fred Kresal as Mr. Gibbs.

Arsenic and Old Lace runs April 4, 5, 11, 12, 25 and 26 with a matinee performance on April 27. Dinner hour will begin at 6:00 with the show shortly following at approximately 7:30 for evening performances and lunch hour for the matinee performance begins at 1:00 with the show following at approximately 2:30. For more information about the production or to make reservations, please call the box office at (301) 739-7469 or visit

"If you want to get out, socialize, have a nice meal, and laugh, then the Washington County Playhouse production of Arsenic and Old Lace is just what the doctor ordered" added Czerbinski.

Photo Credit: Washington County Playhouse

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Johnna Leary Johnna Leary is a vocal performance musical theatre major at Shepherd University. She is the Arts and Styles Section Editor of the Shepherd University newspaper, The Picket. She previously wrote for The Brooke Scene as a student news correspondent and interned at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Johnna frequently performs in educational and local theater productions. Her favorite roles include Johanna (u/s) and Young Lucy in Sweeney Todd at Shepherd, Isabel in Scrooge! The Musical and Mallory/Avril in City of Angels at the Old Opera House, Amy March in Little Women at the Apollo Civic Theater and Olive Ostrovsky in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Lily St. Regis in Annie at the Washington County Playhouse. Johnna is also active in many performing organizations, serving as secretary for Scene Stealers, the student-run musical theatre performance group and a member of the Vocal Jazz Octet, Women's Camerata, Masterworks Chorale and Sigma Alpha Iota at Shepherd University.

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