Arsenic and Old Lace

Play: Aresnic and Old Lace
Venue: Drama Barn
Date: 24th – 26th November
Review: Alicia Walters

Joseph Kesserling’s Arsenic and Old Lace was set in a quaint Brooklyn living room. As the narrative progressed it became clear that this was merely an ironic façade; the Brewsters are far from your conventional family. Mortimer Brewster, arguably the centre of this drama, has a lot to contend with: his job as a theatre-critic, the decision of whether to marry the woman he loves and, more importantly, his crazy family. His two spinster aunts have taken to poisoning lonely old men by homemade elderberry wine laced with arsenic. His brother, Teddy, believes himself to be President Roosevelt, digging up locks in the Panama Canal now apparently situated in their cellar. All is exacerbated with the return of Jonathan, the murderous, horribly disfigured and estranged brother, along with his surgeon side-kick, Dr. Einstein.

The busy plot was spectacularly pulled off by the cast. The sheer nonchalance of the aunts (Lynsey Cullen and Anna Pinkstone), especially when forced to explain the dead body stowed in the window seat, exemplified the excellent comic moments which relentlessly punctuated the play.. Teddy’s (Matthew Lacey) belief that he is Roosevelt was another highlight, and his inappropriate yet frequent use of the bugle and his need to ‘CHARGE!’ off stage had the audience roaring.

The more sinister moments were also handled brilliantly. Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps was a commanding stage presence as the obsessive Jonathan Brewster, out to reek revenge on his family, amend his ‘Boris Karloff’-looking face and better his aunt’s record of 12 murders. Working well with Jonathan was his alcoholic abettor, Dr. Einstein (James Quelch).

In spite of some minor mistakes on lines and a few questionable Brooklyn accents, a finely executed plot, a compatible cast and a sharp performance on the night made for a great production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

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