Theatre Mirror Review>"Arsenic And Old Lace"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Arsenic And Old Lace"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Community Players second show of their 93rd season is the 1940's comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace". It takes place in an old Victorian house in Brooklyn. This farcical black comedy is about two sweet spinster sisters, Abby and Martha who bump off elderly gentlemen with no families by serving them poisoned elderberry wine. The show is also about their three nephews, Teddy who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, who digs locks in the basement to bury the gentlemen, Jonathan who has killed 12 people and wants to kill one more to beat his aunts record and Mortimer who is the only sane one in the family. Although he is a drama critic so he might not be as sane as one might think. He must deal with his homicidal family and assorted police officers. There are many assorted characters running in and out of this 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 and the rest home owner. Director Peggy Pires picks terrific performers for these wild and crazy roles, taking the audience on an enjoyable comic madcap romp all night long.

Peggy blocks the show wonderfully and gives her cast keen insight into their characterizations. She gives them clever shtick to perform with some wild chase scenes. Victor Turenne designed the beautiful two story set while Pam Jackson created the 1940's style costumes. Stage manager Cherry Cartier keeps things running smoothly all night long. The two terrific actresses leading this show are Catherine Fox as Abby and Lynn Price as Martha. Their line delivery is fantastic as is their chemistry together that you'd swear they are real life siblings. Catherine and Lynn run the gamut of emotions from sweet to wacky, to frightened and back again. Their reason for disposing of their gentlemen callers is because it is a part of their charitable work. Their crazy antics are hilarious. Both of them handle their enormous amount of dialogue with ease, displaying their expertise as well seasoned performers. These two actresses are rewarded with a standing ovation as their reward on a job very well done.

Tom Coughlin as Mortimer, handles the role with topnotch comic timing. Mortimer seems pompous as times but his aunts and girlfriend keep his behavior in check as do the many dangerous and comic situations he finds himself in. His exasperation at his off balance family and his wild antics lead to much laughter. Good to see Tom back onstage after a lengthy absence. Kathleen Seagriff plays Elaine, Mortimer's girl friend. She does a wonderful job in this underwritten role, giving it the spunk to pull it off. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Rick Braun as Teddy. He is hilarious as he runs up and down the stairs yelling charge or running into the basement to bury yellow fever victims. Rick also blows a bugle summoning his imaginary cabinet to meetings or charging up San Juan Hill. His interactions with his spinster aunts is marvelous, too.  I haven't seen Rick since I directed him as Murray, the cop in "The Odd Couple" for Academy Players back in 2005.

The villains of the show are Eric Barbato as Jonathan and Larry Calabro as Dr. Einstein. Jonathan is a mad dog killer who looks like Boris Karloff due to Dr. Einstein's faulty plastic surgery. Eric tackles this role and scares the audience with his threatening mannerisms. Jonathan wants everyone to bend to his will and Eric delivers the goods as this vile and obnoxious character. Another scene stealer is Larry as the constantly inebriated Doctor Herman Einstein. He is reminiscent of Peter Lorre and is a hoot as this drunken plastic surgeon who botches up the operations due to his heavy drinking. Larry's terrific line delivery and comic facial expressions will keep you in stitches all night long. Marvelous to see Larry back onstage again. Kudos to the entire cast for delivering a stellar performance in this classic comedy. I have fond memories of this show having played Teddy for The Community Players back in 2001. So for a topnotch comic romp, be sure to catch "Arsenic and Old Lace" before time runs out.

"Arsenic And Old Lace" (10 - 19 January)
@ Jencks Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide