‘Old lace,’ new laughs

by Nick Growall

Staff writer

Theatre at Southeastern delivered laughs and pecan pie during their dinner theatre performances of “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the Visual and Performing Arts Center Nov. 17–19.

Written in 1939 by American playwright Joseph Kesselring, the play became well known through the film adaptation starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.

Set in 1940 Brooklyn, the story follows dramatic critic Mortimer Brewster (Dustin Curry), who learns that his aunts (Jordan Hammack and Minda Rocha) are actually homicidal crazies, murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine and “just a pinch” of cyanide.

Mortimer must also deal with his brother Teddy (Brent Odell), who believes he is President Theodore Roosevelt, his murderous brother Johnathan (Boomer Lowrie), who now resembles Boris Karloff after multiple plastic surgeries from his partner Dr. Einstien (Aaron Rains) and his demanding bride-to-be Elaine Harper (Brianne Cothran).

Director Aaron Adair had the pace of the play moving swiftly, keeping the dialogue quick but without feeling rushed. His actors were also on the move throughout, armed with a hefty amount of laughs.

Dustin Curry did an excellent job portraying Mortimer’s battle to keep his sanity intact while nervously dealing his family’s issues. He also brings charm to the role, coming off as a mixture between Matthew Broderick and Jason Bateman.

Jordan Hammack and Minda Rocha had fun playing off each other as the elderly and insane Abby and Martha Brewster, bringing a great balance of sweetness and insanity.

Brianne Cothran didn’t take no for an answer as the love-struck, lustful preacher’s daughter, while Brent Odell embraced the madness, stealing scene after scene with his bugle-blowing antics.

Boomer Lowrie played an intimidating Jonathan Brewster, fully realizing how demented Jonathan is with some delightfully twisted camp, and Aaron Rains was perfect as Dr. Einstein, from his wacky appearance down to his hilarious accent, giving a memorable performance as Jonathan’s bumbling drunk sidekick.

Rowdy Peacock excels as Officer O’Hara, a playwright on the side who approaches Mortimer to help him with his life-work.

Rounding out the supporting cast is Alex Fowzer as Elaine’s worrisome father, Rev. Dr. Harper, Riley Collard and Megan Mackey as the bumbling Officers Brophy and Klein, Trent Pratt as the take-no-crap Lieutenant Rooney and Domanick Hubbard and Tanner Risner as the helpless victims of the Brewster sisters.

The stage was well-designed, giving off a realistic portrayal of life in the 1940s with a look that feels lived in.

The scene was highly-detailed, from the trimming on the wall down to the elegant furniture and family pictures on the wall, and the costumes fit the era well, helping create the world the characters live in and making it very believable.

Overall, “Arsenic and Old Lace” was an entertaining laugh-fest, brought together with great detail in costuming and scenery and filled with memorable characters portrayed superbly by its well-rounded cast.