Sunday, December 1, 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring, Different Stages at Vortex Repertory, November 15 - December 14, 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace Joseph Kesselring Different Stages Austin TX
ALT review

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Different Stages is mounting Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace at the Vortex Theatre in East Austin from November 22nd to December 14th. It is something of a comedy standard and comes highly recommended.

As Director Blumensaadt stated during his curtain speech, Arsenic and Old Lace is from the 1940s, produced on Broadway in 1941. It is also listed as a comedy classic, and that it certainly is, a period piece with sharp dialogue throughout and humor that remains fresh and undated. This gives the play an evergreen quality, to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Arsenic and Old Lace Kesselring Different Stages Austin TX
Karen Jambon, Tyler Jones, Jennifer Underwood (photo: Bret Brookshire)

The story of Arsenic and Old Lace is well known, that of two spinster sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster (Jennifer Underwood and Karen Jambon), with a mission to poison their lodgers and all others who meet their exacting criteria. They live in an impressive old multistory home in Brooklyn (set design by Ann Marie Gordon). Their nephews Teddy (Joe Hartman) and Mortimer (Tyler Jones) are co-resident with them.

Teddy is strongly delusional and sees himself as Theodore Roosevelt, but Mortimer is as normal as a newspaper theatre critic can be; he dates the girl next door, Elaine Harper (Sarah Danko). The household is nothing but family secrets, none more chilling than nephew Jonathan (Steven Fay), who shows up suddenly after years of living life as a one-man international crime spree. The spinsters began their career of murder years earlier, using the chemicals left by their father who made a fortune with patent medicines and left his experiments in the house.

This all comes out early in the show, and the balance of the play is a swirling romp about what to do about it. The plot doesn’t twist so much as turn circuitously around and around the sisters. Certain expectations for some of the characters are thoroughly disappointed, and actual outcomes are quite surprising. The play is well-written and well-crafted, as are many plays from the 1940s.

Read more at Central Texas Live Theatre. . . .

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