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Arsenic and Old Lace, by Joseph Kesselring
All is not Well in Jolly Olde England
Monday, December 31, 2012
-1.0
Joseph Kesselring�s highly amusing masterpiece Arsenic and Old Lace is still an incredibly funny show. This particular presentation of this brilliant black comedy did have a few bumps (specifically, some not-so-solid performances), but Patrick Schambach's direction was crisp and there were a number of high-spirited performances from an impressive supporting cast. The original musical numbers created by Mary Binaco were odd, but charming at times.

The show depicts the Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha (Diane LeGrand Hail and Sally Shornick), who occasionally take in boarders. They cannot help but notice the loneliness of the older, unattached men whom fate or chance bring to their door. When these prospective tenants of modest means tell the sisters that they are alone in the world, without family, friends, or hope, the well-meaning sisters literally kill them with kindness by serving them a glass of their homespun elderberry wine, laced with arsenic, plus a dash of strychnine and just a pinch of cyanide.

When their innocent nephew Mortimer (Micah Osborne) accidentally finds out about his aunties� unusual �hobby,� he plans to shift the blame for the killings onto his brother Teddy (Adam Zangara), who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt and dresses and acts accordingly. Adding to the mix is Mortimer's insane brother Jonathan (Josh Caray), on the lam from the law, wearing a new face (vaguely reminiscent of horror film legend Boris Karloff) compliments of his whiskey-drinking plastic surgeon companion Dr. Einstein (Steve Banks). The pair arrives in Brooklyn dragging along a corpse of their own.

Overall the show was enjoyable, with a strong cast. Theresa Schambach and Diane LeGrand Hail were engaging and spot-on during the musical numbers. Lee Lasseter and Ron Connell were uproariously funny and kept the show moving when the action lagged or other actors forgot their lines. The high energy acting, however, could not overcome some of the deficiencies from some cast members. Josh Caray, in particular, struggled during the musical numbers. While his castmates sang and danced as if they had been training since childhood, Caray struggled with even the most basic steps and actually fell down (and almost off the stage) while executing a jazz square. He appeared to have lost a key component of his costume immediately before the production because he spent the entire first act in a Hard Rock Cafe YOLO shirt instead of a waistcoat. In an act he perhaps was not even aware of, he would mouth the other actors' words as they recited their lines in order to keep up with the show. To his credit, he had obviously memorized the entire show because he lop-synced every word spoken on stage, which surely took some effort. He hammed up the characters sadistic qualities and helped create a memorable character who stole the show.

As I saw an opening night production, it should be noted that there were kinks that were likely worked out as the show progressed. Overall it was highly enjoyable.

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