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Washington Street Players Put On Arsenic and Old Lace for a Final Weekend ---- May 3rd

by Ceci LeBeau
May 2, 2018

Washington Street Players Put On Arsenic and Old Lace for a Final Weekend

Two sweet little old ladies. Brooklyn, NY in the 1930’s. Twelve corpses buried in the basement. Numerous police officers and detectives in and out. What could possibly go wrong?

First written for Broadway by Joseph Kesselring, Arsenic and Old Lace opened in 1941 and ran for two years. As a movie, directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant, this screwball comedy captured the pre-war isolationist America that had no stomach for another entangling alliance. “I’ve heard that Mr. Hitler is not a very good Christian” reflects much of that era’s mindset.


(Standing are Rob Murphy and James Parr.)

Mortimer Brewster, (Robert Murphy) is from the famed Brewster family which came over on the Mayflower. Murphy portrays a growing panic with panache when he realizes on the day he proposes to his fiancé that his kindly maiden aunts have been poisoning lonely old men. Out of an innocent belief that they are being charitable, the aunts offer these lost souls some of their elderberry wine, spiked with arsenic, strychnine and “just a pinch” of cyanide. Aunt Martha (Dawn Anderson) and Aunt Abby (Lorna Nogueira) are hilarious as they fuss over the niceties of tea and sandwiches. Then they don creaky widow’s weeds to conduct funeral services for the deceased, careful to note which hymns would be appropriate for a Methodist.

Teddy Brewster, who lives with his aunts, is convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt, yelling “charge!” every time he climbs the stairs as though they were San Juan Hill. Jim Parr, as a wacky Teddy, gladly buries the corpses in the basement. He believes he’s building locks in the Panama Canal  and the men died of yellow fever. He also blasts his bugle, often and badly.


( Larry Loring (in chair) and Chris Erath on couch)

The most murderous brother, Jonathan (Chris Erath) has had plastic surgery on his face to escape the law. His alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein, (Larry Loring) has inadvertently made Jonathan look like Boris Karloff. (On Broadway, Boris Karloff himself actually did play Jonathan.) The Dr. Einstein character was based on a real life gangland surgeon, Joseph Moran. Part of the comic madness comes in frequent appearances by the sexy, sultry Elaine Harper (Katie Killourly) who demands to know why Mortimer has suddenly lost interest in her. As the girl next door, with a minister as a father, she is sure that something is afoot.

All the supporting actors help bring sparkle to this gem. For the 1941 movie, the part of Mortimer was intended for Bob Hope, and Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan were also considered. Raymond Massey, Edward Everett Horton and Peter Lorre also starred. This light hearted romp just finished its first weekend here in town. For all of you locals and Hollistonians, don’t miss a chance to see it in its final weekend May 3,4 and 5 at 8 PM in the Upper Town Hall. The charming costumes will enchant, and the antique rose set will remind the theater goer that, like the aunts, they are seeing the murders through rose colored glasses.

Ceci LeBeau

 

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