BWW Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Toro Theatre Company
BWW Review: Arsenic and Old Lace
Rarely does a show come together so well that it leaves the audience yearning for it to begin again the moment it is over. This phenomenal group of actors and creators donated their time and talents for a scholarship production that not only provides funds for the students at Mountain View, but also allows the audience to partake in professional caliber theater.
Directed by Karen Rolston, Arsenic and Old Lace tells the story of sisters, Martha and Abby Brewster, who relieve lonely, old men of their troubles by killing them. Murder is not supposed to be funny, but this play is well-written, expertly directed, and each member of the cast inhabits their role perfectly to allow the audience to find the humor among the insanity.
Abby Brewster is played by Laura Soldan. Soldan has excellent comedic timing and brings a wonderful physicality to the role. Every time she runs off stage, the audience could not help but giggle. She shares an incredible chemistry with all the actors on stage, but especially with Deborah Weissman Ostreicher, who plays Martha. Convinced they are performing God's work, the two women matter-of-factly explain why there are so many bodies in the basement. Ostreicher has a quick wit and razor sharp delivery. Together, the two maintain the momentum of the show and provide the perfect amount of sincerity to make their cause believable.
As Mortimer Brewster, Ben Mason presents every emotion a person can feel. He is exasperated, scared, angry, flirty, overwhelmed, and resilient. Mason represents every person who feels they are the only sane person in a bushel full of nuts. He allows the audience to understand his emotions and to empathize with him.
As Teddy Brewster, aka Teddy Roosevelt, Jere Van Patten is hysterical. He commands the stage and delivers his lines with gusto. Teddy is a high-energy character and Van Patten never falters. He is a delight to watch and brought some much needed levity to the proceedings.
William Marquez brings Jonathan Brewster to chilling, unnerving life. Every fidget, tic, and movement is perfectly crafted to present Jonathan as unhinged and unpredictable. Marquez uses physical comedy to his advantage and his presence is felt on stage even when he is not on it. His companion, Dr. Einstein, played by William Irwin, has a frenzied energy that highlights the tenuous grip Jonathan has on reality. Irwin also brings an excellent physicality to the role that brought humor to an uncomfortable situation. Marquez and Irwin are excellent.
The supporting cast is superb. While not on the stage for long, each character brought additional tension and complexity to the story. Hal Bliss plays Mr. Gibbs who comes to see about the room for rent. Bliss presents Gibbs as gruff, but wise enough to do what he is told. As Reverend Dr. Harper, Jim Good is energetic and welcoming. As the father of Elaine, he is concerned that Mortimer is not good enough for her and warns of the danger of theater. Good obviously enjoys being on stage and it shows. Elaine Harper is played by Laura Anne Kenney. Kenney is vibrant, graceful, and tenacious. In the final scene, she sat quietly, but actively, in the background taking in what was going on around her. She presents Elaine with strength and creates a character that is easy for the audience to love. As Mr. Witherspoon, Mark Kleinman is jovial, yet oblivious. Witherspoon is supposed to be aloof, but he welcomes the companionship of Abby and Martha without hesitation. Kleinman plays the role with sincerity and a dash of bewilderment.
The police are an active presence in this show. Dane Burk plays Officer Brophy, while his partner Officer Klein is played by Joseph Fuller. Burk presents Brophy as genial and concerned, but uses force when necessary. Burk has a natural stage presence and works well with Fuller. Fuller brings a youthful vivacity to the role. Officer Klein is young and inexperienced, and Fuller makes the perfect prot'g' for Burk. Kale Burr plays Officer O'Hara who is interested in a lot more than police work. Burr plays off the other actors well and uses O'Hara's ignorance to his comedic advantage. Last but not least, Dave Ray plays Lieutenant Rooney. Ray presents Rooney as no-nonsense and is exasperated by the incompetence of his officers. Ray is hilarious and rounds out this fantastic cast.
Arsenic and Old Lace is fun, yet unsettling, from beginning to end. The actors use the space well, the set is exquisite, the costumes and wigs are perfect, and the delivery is impeccable. It is no wonder this play has been performed since 1939, with many more performances to come. Broadway at the Mountain Scholarship Fundraiser happens annually in February, but donations can be received here at any time. Tickets for the Toro Theatre Company's upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie can be purchased here.