Take an evening cocktail consisting of homemade elderberry wine, arsenic, strychnine and cyanide, two little old ladies and the occasional lonely old man, and one has a recipe for the farcical black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. Add a cast-full of talented actors and a stage covered with an incredible, professional-looking set and props, and one has PTP’s hilarious version of this classic play.
Arsenic and Old Lace was written in 1939 by American playwright Joseph Kesselring, and released as a movie in 1944, starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra. The setting is early 1940s Brooklyn, with the entire play taking place inside sisters Abby and Martha Brewster’s Queen Anne-style home. Abby and Martha have a nephew, Mortimer Brewster, who works as a theater critic despite his distaste for it and is engaged to the next-door neighbor Elaine. Mortimer discovers the body of a dead man hidden in the window seat of his aunts’ home. Alarmed, he immediately blames the man’s death on his insane brother Teddy, who believes he is the actual Theodore Roosevelt. Soon, however, he discovers that his aunts have willing killed the man—and that this isn’t the first time they have committed this particular crime. Hilarity ensues as Mortimer frets over what to do, during which time Teddy keeps making random appearances as Theodore Roosevelt, complete bugle and teddy bear, Mortimer’s estranged and criminal brother and his plastic surgeon Dr. Einstein descend upon the house, and neighborhood policemen keep dropping in. Throughout the play, good battles evil across uncertain lines as the misguided Brewster sisters and Mortimer are pitted against Jonathan and Dr. Einstein.
The characters in the play are magnificently portrayed by the cast. From the elastic expressions of Anthony Dieguez, who portrays Mortimer, to the excitable and enigmatic Bob White as Dr. Einstein, the cast never fails to deliver a convincing and entertaining performance. This particular performance not only strikes a note with the audience, but also with the director and the producer, who happen to be husband and wife. “This is the play we did when we met; she was Elaine, and I was Jonathan,” says director John Kirby. “Folks here bring that back and makes us think of that time together.” The couple has a young child now, and have enjoyed working on the production together. “Our cast is strong; we’ve had a wonderful time.”
Arsenic and Old Lace opens this Friday at the Port Tobacco Players theatre in La Plata, running from August 27 through September 12.
For show times and ticket information, click here.