BWW Review: Walnut's ARSENIC AND OLD LACE- Insanely Funny

Too often when a film or live production is retold years later it loses 'something' from the original; not the case with Walnut Street's Arsenic and Old Lace, thanks to the fresh creative direction by Charles Abbot, who manages to keep this classic both endearing and injects a generous quantity of fresh and lively action. It doesn't hurt to have a stable of some of Philly's famously favorite actors all getting into their character with a seemingly familiarity of working together to create a comedic chemistry that is non-stop, slap stick funny throughout the night.

In this chaotic comedy, drama critic Mortimer

Brewster ( Damon Bonnetti) plans to marry the lovely Elaine Harper (Jennie Eisenhower). His spinster aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster (Jane Ridley and Mary Martello) known throughout Brooklyn for their many acts of kindness and charity, taking lonely old men into their boarding home. They kill their guests with kindness, humor and... their homemade elderberry wine, laced with arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch" of cyanide! Martello & Ridley immediately win the audience from Martello shuffling to the door to the innocence of Ridley doing her best Betty White -like impression.

"Look I probably should have told you this before... but you see... well... insanity
runs in my family... it practically gallops." - Mortimer Brewster ( Damon Bonetti) Bonetti is brilliant as he masterfully attempts to wrangle everyone in this wacky family while wooing his love the always spot-on adorable Jennie Eisenhower, who's ready to brain him for his questionable antics.

Abbot's direction takes this familiar plot and allows each character to grab their share of the spotlight...and boy, do they. From the cuckoo brother AKA Teddy Roosevelt played by old hand-at-comedy Ben Dibble to the unusually nasty brother and villain, Jonathan (Dan Olmstead) to the master of foreign character roles Laurent Giroux who plays Jonathan's frantic, desperately lacking German plastic surgeon/co-conspirator. Paul L. Nolan plays the Reverend failing to keep his daughter from those "theater people" as well as Lieut. Rooney". Walnut also calls up the Philly troops to keep law and order by casting the Irish (?) Fran Prisco, and John Jarboe, as well as John-Charles Kelly as the lieutenant by day/ playwright by night. Mr. Witherspoon (Peter Schmidt) makes a last scene appearance which also becomes his final, fatal drink to round out the cast.

Colleen Grady's 40's costumes are "dead right" as is the elegant Victorian great room created by scenic designer Robert Klingelhoefer.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE plays at the Walnut Street Theater, 825 Walnut Street. For ticket and more information call 215.574.3550

Photo: # 1 Damon Bonetti ( Mortimer Brewster) and Jennie Einsehower ( Elaine Harper) Photo # 2 Mary Martello (Abby Brewster), Jane Ridley (Martha Brewster), Laurent Giroux (Dr. Herman Einstein), Dan Olmstead (Jonathan Brewster)

Production Photos: J. Urdaneta

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From This Author Pati Buehler

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