BWW Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Taproot Theatre
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Taproot Theater is what Aunt Abby would call a "fine howdy doo." This production proves why Joseph Kesselring's play is considered a classic. The play contains not only great humor but also smarts. The talented cast has a great rapport and will take you on an adventurous ride full of surprises.
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is the story of the eccentric Brewster family. Sisters Abby and Martha maintain the family home and are pillars of the community, known for their kind hearts and generous deeds. Their nephew Mortimer is a theater critic and dating the pastor's daughter who lives next door. Their other nephew, Teddy, thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt and his frequent bugle blowing brings the police to the house on a regular basis. When Mortimer discovers that one of his aunts' charities is more than a little illegal, they must rally together to protect the secret, no matter what crazy shenanigans or hijinks are necessary.
This tight knit cast is headed by Richard Nguyen Sloniker (Mortimer Brewster). Sloniker must portray nearly every possible human emotion in the span of two hours. He excels in the rapid-fire problem solving to protect the family while interspersing it with the great comedy of avoiding all beverages served at the Brewster house. David Drummond is a standout at Jonathan Brewster. His hulking presence and rough demeanor were more than a little intimidating. I also enjoyed Tyler Todd Kimmel (Officer O'Hara) with his nonplussed delivery and easy swagger. A tip of the hat to Stephen Grenley whose portrayal of Teddy Brewster brought a kindness and depth to what could have easily been a one-note part. The heart of the show belongs to Kim Morris and Pam Nolte (Abby and Martha Brewster, respectively). They presented a bond of understanding and mutual respect. They made the unbelievable believable, and had the audience firmly in their corner. Morris was especially enjoyable as she spoke with such sincerity and genuineness so as to make her acting completely invisible.
Taproot specializes in shows that take place within a single location. With little room to move pieces on or off, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a perfect choice for this theater. Scenic design by Mark Lund provided a Brewster house that was rich with detail and made great use of the limited space. Costumes by Jocelyn Fowler were simultaneously historic and timeless. The sisters' mourning dresses and hats were particularly fabulous. Director Marianne Savell managed the few needed transitions masterfully with low light and continued action. The pacing was tight while still allowing the actors time to breath into a scene. The show is simply delightful to watch and fond to remember.
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is playing at Taproot Theatre through March 2nd. For more tickets or information, visit www.taproottheatre.org.