Cotuit Center for the Arts presents “Arsenic and Old Lace,” by Joseph Kesselring, January 30 through February 16. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2 PM. Steve Ross directs.
Mortimer Brewster (played by Frank Hughes) is living a happy life: he has a steady job at a prominent New York newspaper, he’s just become engaged to Elaine Harper (Leeandra Booth), who lives next door and is the daughter of the local minister (Chuck Gifford). Mortimer visits his sweet spinster aunts, Abby (Cathy Ode) and Martha (Janet Moore) Brewster, who raised him to announce his engagement.
Mortimer warns his fiancé, “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.” Mortimer always knew that his family, though descended from the Mayflower settlers, was a bit mad—his brother Teddy (Jim Batzer) thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and that his great-grandfather used to scalp Indians for pleasure.
But Mortimer’s world is turned upside down when he realizes that his dear aunts have been charitably, in their opinion, poisoning lonely old men like Mr. Gibbs (Don Tyler) with their special elderberry wine for years.
When Mortimer’s maniacal brother Jonathan (Todd Gosselin), who now inexplicably looks like Boris Karloff, returns with his accomplice Dr. Einstein (Toby Wilson) on the night that the aunts were planning to bury the newest victim, Mortimer must rally to help his aunts and protect his fiancé—all while trying to keep his own sanity.
The police get involved (Ricky Bourgeois as Officer Brophy, Boris Mewborn as Officer Klein, Scott McGraw as Officer O’Hara, and Chuck Gifford as Lt. Rooney) as the plot thickens.
An uproarious farce, “Arsenic and Old Lace” premiered on Broadway in 1941 to rave reviews—the New York Times writing that it was “so funny that none of us will ever forget it.” It was made into a movie starring Cary Grant, which was released in 1944, after the play closed.
The play was apparently based on the real-life story of a Connecticut woman who promised “lifetime care” to boarders and then poisoned them for their pensions. Kesselring initially intended to write the play as a heavy drama, but was convinced by his producers that the play would be more effective as a comedy.
Tickets are $32, $27 for balcony seating. There is a $5 discount for members and a $2 discount for seniors and veterans. Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit. For more information, visit www.artsonthecape.org or call 508-428-0669.