Best known for the film version starring Cary Grant, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE was written in 1939 and reached Broadway in 1941, where the people-pleasing play racked up 1,444 performances. In fact, this play was author Joseph Kesselring’s most successful play and has been adapted for international audiences, as well as cinematic and television productions. A farcical black comedy, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE may have been inspired by actual murders which occurred in Connecticut around the same time. Author Kesselring , who lived in the Goerz House while teaching at Bethel College in Kansas, probably also modeled the Brewster residence after some of his amusing memories of boarding house life. In 2020, La Mirada Theatre breathes new life into a very funny old play.
Set in Brooklyn in 1941, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE invites the audience to visit the Brewster clan, a family which came over on the Mayflower and may be best known for its crazy (and even murderous) genes. Two spinster Brewster sisters, Abby (Carol Mansell) and Martha (Lynn Milgrim), live in the spacious family manse. The lovable and charitable ladies have a strange hobby: they poison lonely old men with homemade arsenic-laced elderberry wine in order to end their pain. Their brother Mortimer (Jamison Jones), oblivious to their homicidal interests, keeps an eye on them – as well as on the very pretty and available next door neighbor Elaine Harper (Rachel Seiferth), a woman he hopes to marry. When, after an absence of years, another brother Jonathan (Ty Mayberry) shows up with his buddy Dr. Einstein (Ed F. Martin) in tow, trouble may be brewing for the Brewsters. It seems that homicide runs in the family.
Director Casey Stangl does an excellent job of keeping the pace speedy and the laughs continuous in this uproarious tale of murder and mayhem. In no small part, he is aided by a very talented cast who know how to make a farce shine. Special kudos to the two little old ladies (Mansell and Milgrim). Without them, there would be no story! Originally written in three acts, the current production has only one 15-minute intermission in keeping with today’s theater.
John Iacovelli’s scenic design is superb; everyone in the audience will want to move in immediately. The rest of the production team (including David Kay Mickelsen’s costumes, Karyn D. Lawrence’s lighting, Josh Bessom’s sound) also does a splendid job of moving the tale along. ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a fun play which will charm and entertain. Don’t look for depth in this light, laugh-inducing, hilarious production. This is a play to enjoy, and the audience clearly loved it.
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE runs through February 16, 2020, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA. Tickets range for $17 to $89. For Information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or go online.