Lights, Camera, Arsenic?

By Mackenzie Dineen – 1851 Staff


As the lights opened on the stage, a charming room painted periwinkle blue was revealed. An older woman, Abby, is pouring tea for “Theodore Roosevelt,” and the town’s new Reverend. Abby’s sister Martha arrives home, and the two clean up tea while chatting over the cadaver conveniently concealed in the window seat. This is just a typical afternoon for the Brewster family— until Abby and Martha’s nephews arrive home. 

The cast of Lasell College Drama Club’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” performed in three shows on April 7, 9, and 10.

The dark comedy features a variety of characters; from a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt (Teddy, played by Spencer Koisor), to a phony plastic surgeon with an affinity for alcohol on the run from the law. The Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, played by freshman Mariah Lang and sophomore Rebecca Llanes respectively, clicked perfectly. The murderous habits concealed by their stifling manners added to their charm, making them all the more amicable.

Mortimer Brewster (Hamilton Harris), a charismatic, yet blunderous play reviewer, visits his aunts, only to discover that they have 12 bodies hidden in the cellar. Harris’ compelling portrayal includes a litany of worries, and several incredibly humorous reactions. The electric chemistry between Mortimer and his Elaine, (Liz Chapman), captivated the audience, until disrupted by a family of ‘crazies’.

Jonathan Brewster (Tom Casey) breaks into his childhood home, unrecognizable to his family. A botched plastic surgery from his accomplice, Dr. Einstein (Kevin Kearley), has completely altered his countenance. Casey’s stage presence is grand, and the trail of bodies he created while travelling is larger. Johnathan and Dr. Einstein brought along their friend, Mr. Spinalzo (played by a dummy), a second corpse, who replaces Abby and Marthas “gentleman,” in the window seat, after Teddy removed him.

Johnathan and Mortimer struggle over who will stay at the Brewster residence, Mortimer tries to hide Abby and Martha’s cadaver, and Jonathon and Einstein try to hide theirs. Harris and Casey engage in aggressive, yet comedic banter, embodying their characters wonderfully. Once both bodies are revealed to the two parties, Abby and Martha insist that Jonathan remove Spinalzo. The two ladies refuse to bury anyone other than their ‘gentlemen,” who are lonely old men seeking out rooms. The two kill their victims with elderberry wine laced with poison and “Just a pinch of cyanide!”

Lang and Llanes are so believable that one might think they are actually pious old ladies, who see their crimes as “charity work.”

The police visit the Brewster residence several times over the course of the evening. An officer (Molly Parrot) even insists on reciting the play she is writing, while Moritmer is tied up. It is almost frustrating to watch as the cadavers are shuffled around and hid from the officers. Eventually the police realized that they are sure Johnathan “is wanted somewhere or other,” after he mistakenly reveals himself.

Chief Rooney (Sarah Gelineau) arrives to take Teddy to Happyville, an insane asylum, and because of his incessant bugle blowing, orders that Jonathan be locked up as well. The lights go down as the Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, offer the caretaker from Happyville a glass of their elderberry wine.

“Arsenic and Old Lace,” was written by Joseph Kesserling in 1939, and directed and produced by Kristi Wivaag.

The show was complete with thrills, laughs, and everything in between. The lighting was appropriate and clever, and overlaid a charming living room complete with stairs, three doors, a window, and Fleur de lis wallpaper. Each actor exercised character development with ease, evoking laughter and fear. “Arsenic and Old Lace” was well executed and entertaining.

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