‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ opens at Springville Playhouse



    If you’ve ever been embarrassed by your relatives’ bad habits, the Springville Playhouse production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” will make you realize just how good you’ve got it.

    “Arsenic and Old Lace” is the story of Mortimer Brewster and his family, which includes his two sweet old aunts. These women are active in their church, generous with strangers, loving to their family and praised as saints by their friends.

    They only have one disturbing hobby — poisoning would-be boarders and burying them in the basement.

    The developing predicaments are hilarious as Mortimer frantically tries to resolve the lethal and potentially very public problem his aunts have created.

    Adding to the fun are Mortimer’s insane brothers — one who thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt and one who is a psychopathic killer — a handful of policemen and Mortimer’s bewildered fiancee.

    The Springville Playhouse has a great, darkly funny script to work with and it capitalizes on its strengths: a zany range of characters, punchy dialogue and comedic turns in the plot (including mix-ups with corpses). The familial ties and tensions add another layer to the action.

    Although the plot and theme are rather morbid, the cast keeps the mood light and the pace rolling. It also has some fun in blackout scenes where the audience doesn’t quite know what’s going to happen next.

    The playhouse has a large pool of talent to draw from and the quality of performance is even throughout the cast.

    Especially enjoyable to watch is Maureen Eastwood, who plays the part of Aunt Abby. She is completely believable and endearing as a helpful, loving grandmother type, right down to her waddle. To hear her delivery of atypical lines explaining the charitable nature of her kills are not only convincing, but earn loads of laughter from the audience.

    Both aunts don’t miss a beat as they go about their lives, making sure everyone has enough to eat, and matter-of-factly planning funeral arrangements. The fact that the aunts truly believe they are doing their victims a favor is the source of most of the play’s humor.

    Other standouts include George King, who plays the delusional Teddy, and George Wallace, who provides an ominous presence as the prodigal brother Jonathan. The two do a good job of representing the the harmless and the criminal ends of the spectrum.

    The Springville Playhouse’s small theater lends an intimate, comfortable setting to the show.

    “Arsenic and Old Lace” plays every Monday, Friday and Saturday night through Nov. 2. For more details, call 489-1067.

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