THEATER WEEKEND: ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Published 11:14 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What do you get when you have a man who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, a homicidal maniac and his equally terrifying partner, 13 dead bodies, a theater critic and her boyfriend and two aunts whose hobby involves “helping” lonely men to “a better place” through their own recipe for elderberry wine — all under the same roof?

You get “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a phrenetic journey into a pre-World War II time where things are anything but peaceful.

In September 1941 Atlanta, the Brewster sisters spend their time helping lonely men get to their final reward in shorter time by serving their homemade elderberry wine with a touch of arsenic. Their niece, Mortimer, lives with them and only now discovers their horrible hobby.

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Meanwhile, Mortimer is trying to get her boyfriend to marry her. Just when things start going, Mortimer’s sister, Johnnie, comes to visit with her assistant, Dr. Einstein, while they try to hide out from the police after their latest murderous caper.

The police enter onto the scene, but only to tell Teddy to stop blowing his bugle when he charges up “San Juan Hill” and to offer a play for Mortimer to help write.

Fans of the Cary Grant movie may notice a few casting changes, due to the number of women who tried out for the play. Many of the traditionally male roles are played by women.

“The script was presented to me back in January, already in mind that we would need to rework it so a majority of the roles could be played by women,” said director Kim Shelton. “In terms of actual rewrites of the script, the great thing about the play was that, with the exception of changing just a few of the lines and most of the pronoun references, as a whole, the play pretty much stands as it is.”

“Arsenic and Old Lace” will be shown Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Old School theater at the intersection of Main Avenue and Pettus Street in Demopolis. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children, and those bringing a program from the DHS production of “Bye, Bye, Birdie” to “Arsenic and Old Lace” will have $2 taken off of their admission price.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to promote this as a theater weekend and an opportunity for the people of this town,” Shelton said.

“We want people to see ‘Bye, Bye, Birdie’ and to see our show. This was our way of trying to entice more people to come out and support both shows.”