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Saturday, 21 May 2011 20:36

A Tasty Brew

Written by Connie Bollinger
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When Joseph Kesserling wrote Arsenic and Old Lace back in 1941, I'm certain he had no idea that seventy years later theater companies would still be producing it and that audiences would still be laughing.

It's a wonderful piece, full of wit and humor that has withstood the test of time and it's one of the only shows I know to successfully present two serial killers as lovable old ladies.

 Abby and Martha Brewster played by Barbara Langa and Elaine Sweeney, live in a well worn old house in 1941 Brooklyn with their delusional brother, Teddy (Tim Kennedy). Abby and Martha appear quite normal old women, baking for the neighbors, fussing over afternoon tea, singing in the church choir and making elderberry wine. The only fly in the cold crème is dear Teddy who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy is a harmless cuckoo whose only crime is his constant shattering of the neighbor's peace with his bugle. Teddy spends most of his time in the cellar digging "locks" for the Panama Canal.

Nephew Mortimer Brewster (Carey Steinmetz) is an acerbic theater critic who detests theater. He's engaged to the Preacher's sunny, spunky daughter, Elaine (Erin Kennedy). Mortimer drops by periodically to check on his little family and to persuade the police to drop disturbance charges against Teddy. It's a good little life, right out of a storybook. Or so it would seem.

Enter the other brother, Jonathan played with creepy intensity by Wayne Mackenberg, and his sidekick Dr. Einstein (Todd Macali) the alcoholic plastic surgeon. Jonathan is newly escaped from an institution for the criminally insane and Einstein's job is to keep altering Jonathan's face until he's unrecognizable thus eluding capture. Einstein succeeds, but not quite the way Jonathan had hoped.

Insanity truly runs in this family (or as Mortimer says, " gallops!") and indeed throughout the play, a potpourri of sight gags, mayhem, and many, many murders. All the characters are richly written, especially the would-be playwright cop played by Maurice Walters; and if the end is a bit contrived or pat, remember that the play is seventy-five years old so cut it some slack.

I can't end our chat without a few words about the set: It was remarkable! Cudos to Crista Loyd's design. She gave us the aura of well polished wood paneling and wainscoting, lush draperies, and a lovely old sideboard that seemed as much a part of the play as the actors. Well done, Crista, and well done everyone.

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