The fourth show of Company Theatre's 30th anniversary season is the 1940's comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace. It takes place in an old Victorian mansion in Brooklyn. This black comedy is about two sweet spinster sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster who bump off elderly gentlemen by serving them poisoned elderberry wine. It is also about their three nephews, Teddy who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, (I appeared in this show as Teddy back in 2001 and it was one of my favorite roles.) Jonathan who has killed 12 people and wants to beat his auntie's record by killing one more and Mortimer who is the only sane one of the family. Although he is a drama critic so he might not be as sane as one might think. There are many other assorted characters coming in and out of the show including four cops, a minister, his daughter who is in love with Mortimer, a drunken doctor who is really a hoodlum, a would be victim of the ladies, two corpses and the rest home owner. Director Peter Carey chooses the best people for these crazy roles, making each character different from the other, taking the audience on an enjoyable comic madcap romp all night long. He directs and blocks them perfectly.
Peter's strength as a director comes through his giving them a lot of shtick to do including humming "Shine on Harvest Moon" each time they answer the doorbell. He creates the mood for this dark comedy but keeps the action flowing to keep the interest level high during it. The gorgeous two story Victorian set is designed by Zoe Bradford, built by Marc Ewart, Jordie Saucerman and their crew with artwork by Zoe and James Valentin. The spooky lighting is by Michael Clark Wonson with sound by Bob Grazioso. The 1940's vintage costumes are by Jen Spagnone. The two wonderful actresses playing Abby and Martha are Karen Wadland and Sharon Evans. Both ladies are a lot younger than the 70 year old Brewster sisters but their make-up and way of walking captures their aged characters perfectly. Their delivery is excellent and their mannerisms make them seem like sisters in real life. They run the gamut of emotions from sweet to wacky, to frightened and back again. Their interactions with the rest of the cast is wonderful, too and their stalking of their final victim is hilarious because they have to continue to do their charitable work. They do an excellent job as these two spinster sisters.
The multitalented Steve Shannon as the drama critic nephew Mortimer is a human dynamo in this enormous role. Steve does a fabulous job in this show. He also has a wonderful singing voice, having reviewed him recently in "The Music Man". He handles the part of the drama critic with his many nervous gestures and double takes as well as the terrifying moments he has to endure in this show from his evil brother, wacky brother and two aunts. He has wonderful chemistry with the entire cast. His gorgeous girlfriend, Elaine is wonderfully played by Johanna Perri who is threatened by the thugs. (I recently reviewed her as Pegeen in "Mame" at Reagle Players this past July.) She gives this girl a backbone to stand up to Mortimer's erratic behavior after he finds dead bodies in the window box seat. A scene stealer in this show is Will Keary who plays Teddy. He has some of the best one liners and makes them count. Will thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt whether he is continually running up the stairs yelling "Charge!" because he thinks he is charging up San Juan Hill or runs into the basement thinking it is Panama where he buries his aunt's yellow fever victims. The villain of the show, Jonathan is well played by Christopher Crossen-Sills who is made to look like Boris Karloff, complete with scars on his face. His physical presence and commanding speaking voice scare the pants off the audience. Another comic role in this show is Eric Braun who plays his sidekick who likes to drink a bit too much, Dr. Einstein,complete with German accent wonderfully. (I last reviewed him as the murderer in "Sorry Wrong Number" two years ago for Company Theatre.) His great facial expressions are hilarious as he botches up his operations because he tipples the bottle too much. Loved when he stole the dead Mr. Spinoza's shoes! The comic cops are played by Steve Cook and Jacob Plummer. Dan Delaporta is a hoot as the long winded Irish cop who tries to get Mortimer to write his play about his mother, Peaches LaTour while Mortimer is bound and gagged in a chair. He pantomimes some funny bits during this scene. (I last reviewed Dan two years ago in "Clue" at Company Theatre.) Rounding out the cast is Michael Pevzner, Robert Edson, Jeff Phillips and Jim Gordon who has a funny bit sticking out his stomach so Teddy can call him Taft. So for a splendid version of this 1940's show be sure to catch "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Company Theatre in Norwell before time runs out.