BWW Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at The Players Centre For The Performing Arts
Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy that is as engagingly funny as it is amusingly chilling. You will find yourself cheering on the murderous villains who happen to be the sweet yet ditsy Brewster spinsters of Brooklyn. Sisters Abby (Meg Newsome) and Martha (Cathy Hansel-Edgerton) find their "calling" by putting lonely, elderly gentlemen out of their misery in serving homemade arsenic-laden elderberry wine, helping the gents to their final resting place, (which happens to be in the basement of their home). Victims are carefully buried there by the Brewster's live-in harmless but deranged nephew, Teddy (JAlex Scott), who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt.
When the Brewster's other nephew, Teddy's brother Mortimer (Stephen Voutsas) pays a visit, he finds a body stashed in the window seat of their home. As much as he doesn't want to know, he asks what is going on. That's when it is revealed that 12 other bodies are buried in the basement. This makes things difficult for Mortimer who is wooing the Pastor's daughter, Elaine (Sally Fint), who lives next door.
If things couldn't get worse, yet another nephew, Mortimer and Teddy's brother Jonathan (Mark Woodland) stirs up the mix when he arrives with pal Dr. Einstein, (not Albert), played by Ren Pearson. These two have their own problems and agenda to take over the Brewster house.
There are so many plot twists and turns to hold your attention. The characters are well defined and have some equal time in the spotlight under the direction of Sara Logan. Miss Edgerton and Miss Newsome are charming as the eccentric aunts. Mr. Voutsas is the most animated in this production, although his character leans more towards that of a used car salesman rather than the cool-headed and suave Mortimer we are often use to seeing. Miss Fint is stylish as Mortimer's love interest. Mr. Woodland was convincing as the edgy mobster brother. Mr. Scott will have you believing he really is Theodore Roosevelt and a special mention to Mr. Pearson whose characterization stood out among the ensemble.
This play lends itself to some critical timing and can pick up the pace a bit more to amuse and hold the audience's attention. References to Boris Karloff could have been bigger and perhaps played out more. Lighting (Owen Leonard, set (Jeffrey Weber and costumes (Tim Beltley) added nicely to the period production.
Arsenic and Old Lace runs through August 20, 2017. For more information, visit www.theplayers.org.
If you haven't seen Frank Capra's 1944 film version of Arsenic and Old Lace staring Cary Grant, you should. It's an overlooked classic delightfully based on Joseph Kesselring's Broadway play of the same name.