Arsenic and Old Lace

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Scott Chapman, Director

Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts has done again. Following the theater’s tradition of opening the season with an American classic,  director Scott Chapman, chose ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, an oldie but goodie by Joseph Kesselring. The original play opened in 1941 and after 1,444 performances, closed in June of 1944.

 

The play is a dark comedy. 12 deaths are at the loving hands of Abby and Martha Brewster, played by Lissa Miller and Bev Allen. The maiden aunts put single men out of their misery with a sip of elderberry wine laced with strychnine and “just a pinch of cyanide.” The sisters mean no harm; rather, they think that they are relieving the loneliness of men without family.

Abby and Martha are helped by their brother Teddy Brewster, played by Tim Stodola. Teddy believes that he is Teddy Roosevelt, and in that capacity, he is digging the Panama Canal in the basement of the family home. To Teddy’s mind, each corpse is a victim of Yellow Fever, and the canal proves to be a handy place for disposing the bodies.

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Would you trust “Frosty” Frostman as your plastic surgeon?

A second brother, the malevolent Jonathan Brewster, is played by Dan Hiester. Jonathan is also into killing. Jonathan’s sidekick is Dr. Einstein played by “Frosty” Frostman. If you are killing people, having a plastic surgeon at your beck-and-call is handy for inventing a new identity.

 

The third Brewster brother is Mortimer, a drama critic. Clif Loucks plays Mortimer. Mortimer loves Elaine, played by Jenna Smith, but how can he marry Elaine when his entire family is deranged?

Not to be a ‘spoiler,’ I stop with the synopsis. What fun to think of the 1944 movie starring Cary Grant as Mortimer, Peter Lorre as Dr. Einstein, and Raymond Massey as Jonathan.

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A cuppa tea? And would you like anything in it?

 

The set, designed by Scott Chapman and Scott Foster, is fabulous. There is the door to the outdoors, the door to the kitchen, the door to the basement, and steps leading up to the second floor. All those doors! And not once did a slamming door shake the entire wall! A first for community theater! The set pieces and the props are lovely and appropriate to the period. The cast is most excellent. In particular, Lissa Miller, Jenna Smith, Clif Loucks, Dan Hiester, and “Frosty” Frostman shine.

 

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What nice period detail.

If you have heard that the play is long, that is true. Remember, the play was written before instant messaging and cell phones and self-driving cars. When the play first opened, World War II was underway. Sitting in the theater… in a creative space far removed from tanks, trenches, and warfare… was an escape that moviegoers whished to gone on forever.

 

Slow down. Take the time. Go see the play. Arsenic and Old Lace repeats next weekend, Friday May 19 and Saturday the 20th at 7:30 and Sunday the 21st at 2:00 p.m. And if you have not thought about buying a season ticket, consider doing so. If you are out-of-town for a particular show, pass your ticket on as a neighborly token of affection.

 

 

 

 

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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6 Responses to Arsenic and Old Lace

  1. Caroline Vornberg says:

    THANK YOU, Doris!!!! I WISH it could be video’, as we can’t be there….😩
    But your synopsis is terrific!!!!!

  2. timeout2 says:

    Thank you for reading, Caroline. The cast was very good, but I must say that the construction of the set was spectacular. Community theater sets, built after work by volunteers, are always a bit slipshod because of time and money restraints. In the case of Arsenic, however, the doors and stairs were rock solid. Amazing dedication of the part of the crew.

  3. Bar Scott says:

    Most excellent review and gracious with the over-long criticism. You did that with finesse!

    I’m not going to be able to see this play unfortunately. Annie’s visit and previously planned road trips with her make it impossible. I always feel guilty when I miss local theater.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my pages. You’re a love.

    I’ll be here in the morning so ring the bell so we can say hello. Annie’s one of your fans.

    Love Bar

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. timeout2 says:

    Yes, come hell or high water or poor reviews, I hate to miss a community theater production. So much dedication and hard work on the part of volunteers needs to be acknowledged. To say nothing of honoring creativity rather than sitting in front of the telly. xo

  5. Maria Weber says:

    My husband and I drove from Buena Vista to see this production and were not disappointed. As Doris has reported, the set was breathtaking. In fact, one might say the set was the main character in this play. Part of that set is where the “two old dolls” hid their victims before burial. I’ve been scratching my head to remember–I think I saw this play at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, when I was quite small–in the ’50s. The remembrance emerged when I recalled the bugle blast and “CHARGE!” shouted at intervals throughout the play by the deranged Teddy Brewster. How odd that this one fragment would come floating back into consciousness. I also remember my father referencing the play at our dining table (the same table we eat from today). He loved the play! Perhaps that conversation is embedded within the wood of that table–but that is too weird! I’m glad we drove an hour and a half to see this old theatrical gem!

  6. timeout2 says:

    Dear Maria, I love the thought that your father’s conversation is embedded within the wood of your dining room table. Along those same lines, I have an ancient, German platform rocker that was old when it was gifted as a wedding present to my grandparents. I have very fond memories of Grandpa reading to me as I sat on his lap.70 years later I feel his arms and voice around me when I sit in that chair.

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