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Arsenic & Old Lace

Arsenic & Old Lace 

Corn Stock Theatre
August 26 – September 3
By Douglas E. Love

Corn Stock Theatre puts its stamp on the 2011 season with the hilarious farcical black comedy Arsenic & Old Lace.

Arsenic & Old Lace is a classic that has been around since 1941.  It has been performed in every amateur theatre and on every high school stage imaginable — it is a murder mystery with a twist and it never seems to get old.

Set in New York at the home of Abbey and Martha Brewster, we are introduced to these dear old spinsters who are about as sweet as honey and as kind as Mother Teresa.

Their nephew, Teddy, lives with them.  Teddy is a harmless lunatic who dresses as and pretends to be President Theodore Roosevelt.  While not engaged in matters of State, Teddy spends his time in the basement digging the Panama Canal.

Within the early scenes of the play we learn that Mortimer Brewster, Teddy’s brother and drama critic, is engaged to the Reverend’s daughter, Elaine.

However, when Mortimer finds a dead body in the window seat, he can’t seem to remember the engagement plans he made only earlier that evening.

Since Abbey and Martha are stalwarts and pillars of the community — and the fact that Teddy keeps disturbing the neighborhood by blowing on his bugle — the police keep popping in and out of the house.

All of this terrifies Mortimer, but keeps the audience roaring with laughter.

The plot thickens when a third sibling shows up, the estranged brother Jonathan.  Jonathan is accompanied by a German physician, a Dr. Einstein.  We learn that they are dangerous and criminal men with no good intention — in fact, they too have a dead body that needs to be disposed of.

This is a light-hearted family show with laughs for the young and old.  The little boy sitting in front of me, he might have been around 10 years old, absolutely loved it.

There is very little not to like about this play.  It could be said that it was a little slow in the beginning, but I think it just took time for the audience to warm up to the characters, because 20 minutes into it the audience was fully engaged and have a very good time.

Kudos to the cast:  Jim Willard stood out for his exceptional performance as Dr. Einstein, it was underplayed and played well.  Dave Montague, Anita and Curt Rowden, Shane Pankey, Jeff Craig, Nan Coleman, and Kerri Rae Hinman all put in solid performances.

The officers were arresting, okay that’s a little word play.  The officers equally deserve kudos for a job well done.  They were Charles Brown, Ryan Campen, Tim Rosenberger, and Michael Wohl, as the Lietuenant.

And lastly, the ever-delightful Jay Parker showed up at the end of the play as the chief Administrator of Happydale — the insane asylum.

I encourage you to get out while the weather is nice and enjoy an evening under the tent!


Arsenic & Old Lace 

Corn Stock Theatre
August 26 – September 3
By Melody Delzell


"Arsenic" is as much fun as a gumball machine is colorful.  It's 1940 and we're in the Brewster’s' large ancestral home.

I'm amazed how spot-on the actors have been cast as these characters!

Teddy Brewster, who believes he's Teddy Roosevelt, is certifiably nuts, perfectly portrayed by Shane Pankey.  Appropriately mustached, he's always dressed in safari clothes, hat, and pince nez.  Mortimer calls him "Mr. President."  Teddy's "CHARGE!" up San Juan Hill, taking the steps two at a time, is a riot.  One cop said, "Too bad a nice family like this hatched a cuckoo."  Each time Teddy goes down to the cellar [Panama] he's continuing to dig the locks for the Canal -- in truth, the graves for the lonely bachelor boarders the Brewster sisters poison. 

Elaine, Mortimer's girlfriend, is as cute, and beautiful, as can be; you don't see her as Kerri Rae Hinman; she 's Elaine.  She tells Mortimer she has to run back home, next door, so her dad, Reverend Harper, can "pray over me before I go out with you."  The Reverend, in a regrettably too-short stage appearance, is Curt Rowden.

Who could play Mortimer more perfectly than Jeff Craig?  Great body language and facial expressions of saucer-eyed and variously, stunned and mortified.  Mortimer's incredulous flipping his head around as he finds yet another body in the window seat, pulls you right into the scene. 
When Mortimer innocently believes, and embarrassedly tells his aunts "Teddy has killed a man", they laughed and we did too.  "Mortimer, you just forget the whole thing," Abby tells him.  Anita Rowden is wonderful as Abby, shuffling around and chirpily nattering on.  Aunt Martha, more reserved and foil to Abby, is Nan Coleman.

The aunts' killing spree begins innocently enough when their first boarder drops dead in their parlor.  What to do with the body?  Their dirt-floor cellar, naturally.  Tell Teddy it's a yellow fever victim who must be buried immediately and send him to Panama to dig.  Martha explains the burial of their first poisoning victim; "We all took him down to Panama."

Mortimer is a stitch when he catches himself about to take a drink of the aunts' Elderberry Wine--which is apparently irresistible to elderly gentlemen--where they disguise their poison-cocktail.   Poor Mr. Gibbs (Curt Rowden again), hoping to become a boarder [who's quite believable walking with a cane] RUNS as Mortimer hysterically shouts, "Do you want to DIE?  Get out of here!"

To their credit, the sisters never bury the gentlemen without a proper Methodist burial, for which they dress in yards of black mourning clothes, shawls and hats. 

The creepiest character by far is nephew Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer's brother who's been "gone" for 20 years.  Dave Montague scared ME, and I know him well.  In tribute to his acting talent, he's really not at all menacing, yet he convinced us all he's Boris Karloff reincarnated.  Not so much creepy as a pathetic sot, is Dr. Einstein, amazingly played by Jim Willard.  His best line was “Johnny”, the Panama Canal looks just like Mr. Spinoza [their dead person, whom they need to dispose of] -- 6 feet long and 4 feet wide."

Also very notable is young, eager, innocent-faced Officer O'Hara (Ryan Campen) who realistically executes his own humorous facial expressions and body movements. 
The happy ending [dare I reveal it?] is when Mortimer, who'd told Elaine he can't marry her because "Crazy runs in my family" learns he's not a Brewster by birth.
So many funny lines in Arsenic, but I'm over my word limit!  Go see "Arsenic" in the Tent--you'll be glad you got to see these many excellent actors.

Arsenic & Old Lace continues at Corn Stock Tent in Upper Bradley Park thru Sept 3 at 7:30pm.  Adults $12, Students $10.

Directed by Charles Brown, Arsenic and Old Lace continues its run at Corn Stock Theatre, in upper Bradley Park, now through September 3 at 7:30 p.m. each night.  Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students 18 and under and are available at the Corn Stock Box Office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at


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