If you have never seen Arsenic and Old Lace on stage, you are in for a real treat! Mild-mannered sisters Martha and Abby Brewster live in their spacious Victorian home in a quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn with an eccentric nephew, Teddy. Famed for their hospitality, Martha and Abby are adored by their neighbors and frequently entertain guests. However, when their other nephew, Mortimer, discovers his aunts’ macabre secrets, a hilarious chain of events ensue in this character-driven farce.
Resident Artist, Ron OJ Parson, directs this beloved American classic, bringing much-needed humor and healing laughter to the stage in Chicago’s Court Theater’s opener of the 2022/23 – the perfect start to an amazing season of theater at one of the city’s greatest theater companies.
The amazing cast includes Norm Boucher (Officer Klein), Norm Boucher (Elaine Harper), Thomas J. Cox (Reverend Harper/Officer O’Hara/Witherspoon), Allen D. Edge (Teddy Brewster), Eric Gerard (Mortimer Brewster), Allen Gilmore (Mr. Gibbley/ Lieutenant Rooney), (Officer Broohy), Matthew Lunt (Officer Brophy), A.C. Smith (Jonathan Brewster), TayLar (Abby Brewster), Guy Van Swearingen (Dr. Einstein) and Celeste Williams (Martha Brewster).
The entire cast was exceptionally talented, playing a group of crazy, yet humorous loud and lovable characters. The Brewster sisters, portrayed by Williams and TayLar, gave very memorable performances.
I also highly enjoyed Edge as Teddy (who believes that he is President Teddy Roosevelt) and Smith as Jonathan, Mortimer’s crazy, on the run cousin and Swearingen as Dr. Einstein, Jonathan’s cooky sidekick. Gerard’s over the top, hysterical portrayal as Mortimer, the aunts’ other nephew, was a real treat.
The heart of the play was the gentle psychosis of the sisters themselves (“assisting” unattached, single lonely old men to save them from a sad old age). The interplay of the actresses playing the sisters was subtle, slowly revealing their madness, while keeping them as believable, likeable murderesses.
You can’t think about or evaluate the play without remembering the Cary Grant movie (if you have not seen it, add it to your movie list). The play was presented as a broad, slapstick-accentuated comedy. The slapstick added to and helped the audience understand and enjoy the verbal comedy of the play.
It is worth noting that it was brilliant to have such a diverse cast. My guest and I liked the fact that the Brewster family was portrayed by black actors: it played with our expectations concerning the multigenerational madness, which one would expect to find in a white family (eg., Teddy who thinks that he is Teddy Roosevelt).
Also worth mentioning was the amazing stage and set design (John Culbert), and costume design (Rachel Anne Healy). The set was wonderful: it looked like an old, elegant mansion in Brooklyn from the early 20th century.
I have seen Arsenic and Old Lace three times on stage over the years, yet this was the most memorable portrayal of the beloved classic I have seen yet. Do not miss Arsenic and Old Lace!
Runs Sep 02, 2022 — Oct 02, 2022
Approximate running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Subscriptions, including this production, are on sale now and can be purchased online at the Court Theater website, or by calling (773) 753-4472.