Arsenic and Old Lace, a black comedy first produced on Broadway in 1941, will be the next production of Island Players. It will be performed at the TPAC on Friday, February 17, and Saturday, February 18, at 7:00 p.m. on both evenings.
What is a black comedy? A black comedy “makes light of serious and often taboo subject matter,” says one encyclopedia. And in this play that serious but funny subject just happens to be – Murder!
During the first read-through of the play on January 10, Jens Hansen, who plays Jonathan Brewster, exclaimed: “I didn’t realize beforehand that I’d be playing such a psychopathic killer! That’s really not who I am!”
Not missing a beat, Joyce Morehouse finished his thought: “And – this is a comedy!”
Many people have already seen Arsenic and Old Lace either as a play or as a movie.
On Washington Island, the play-reading group on the Island before the 1984 founding of Island Players presented Arsenic as a reading for the Art and Nature Center. In addition, Joyce directed a scene from the play in 1990 for the ANC’s 25th anniversary.
The best-known movie of Arsenic came out in 1944, with Cary Grant in the lead.
Island Players’ answer to Cary Grant is Steve Reiss, who plays Mortimer Brewster, a professional theater critic and one of the few sane characters in the play. After he finds a body stuffed inside a window seat, he realizes something is very wrong in his aunts’ house. He then frantically tries to deal with his family’s insanity and murderous ways, but he can’t get the bumbling police officers to cooperate.
Charlotte Manning plays Abby Brewster, one of two good-natured but murderous elderly sisters. “I haven’t decided certain things about my character yet,” said Charlotte during the read-through, “but I like her very much!”
Joan Blair plays Martha Brewster, the other well-bred sister with a secret: “Martha is a nice, friendly old lady who happens to kill people,” said Joan. “But Martha thinks she’s just doing a good deed.”
The third resident in the house, Teddy Brewster, played by Jim Sorensen, thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt. He enables his sisters’ homicidal tendencies as he attempts to dig the Panama Canal in their basement. (You really have to be there to understand. Don’t miss this play!)
Other members of the cast are Oliver Hansen, Terry Henkel, Hannah Johnson, Dutton Morehouse, John Nourse, Ham Rutledge, Bob Wagner, and Dan Yildirim.
Howard Scott is making his directorial debut with Arsenic. After vacationing on Washington Island since 1980, Howard and his wife moved here in the fall of 2010. He acted in The Dining Room in the summer of 2011 and in Our Town in the spring of 2011. His participation in Island Players has been a continuation of his longtime involvement with an amateur theater group in Philadelphia, his former home.
“I like this play a lot,” commented Howard. “It’s a great script. The playwright really made it work. And it’s great to have a comedy in the wintertime.”
Advance tickets will go on sale on Saturday, February 4, two weeks ahead of time. They will be available at the Rec Center and the Red Cup. For further information, contact Joyce Morehouse, producer, at 847-2215 or at email@example.com. For more information about Island Players, visit www.islandplayers.org.
by Mary Marik
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