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  • Writer's pictureEva Nel Brettrager

Arsenic and Old Lace at Aurora Community Theatre

Arsenic and Old Lace, now performing at Aurora Community Theatre, is a silly evening of who-dun-it and you-did-what?!


DISCLAIMER: This piece will be full of bias and 'team spirit'. I'm not really a reviewer, I just love seeing artists thrive in their creative space. I'm here sharing the good wealth of art.


The cast, director, and producer of Arsenic and Old Lace
Photo Courtesy of Katie Hintze

I am in the minority of a lot of theatre fans, meaning, I had never seen Arsenic and Old Lace, nor did I know what it was about. I'm glad I didn't. Seeing the story - directed by Chris Bizub and produced by Katie Hintze - unfold was fresh, brand new, and a delight to watch.


So what's it about?


The story revolves mostly around the Brewster family - two aunts (Abby and Martha) and three nephews (Teddy, Mortimer, and Jonathan). Then there's the neighbors next door (Elaine and Dr. Rev. Harper), the town police force (Brophy, Klein, O'Hara, and Rooney), and a few others here and there (Mr. Gibbs, Dr. Einstein, and Mr. Witherspoon). The aunts have an unfortunate habit that leaves a man dead in a window seat, only later to be moved and replaced by a dead man the evil nephew Jonathan drags in with the help of Dr. Einstein. Hilarity ensues as everyone tries to cover their own tracks while confusing who's bodies are where. Additionally, we see a budding marriage between Mortimer and Elaine Harper, all while Jonathan is trying to take over the Brewster residence and Officer O'Hara misses all the police action thanks to his not-yet-made stage play.

So who's in it?


Abby and Martha Brewster, played by Susan Cohen and Priscilla Kaczak, portray their sisterly connection very well. You can feel the love they have for their nephews, and how certain they are that what they're doing is helping. Their neighbor Rev. Dr. Harper, played by Bob Maddox, sets the comedic tone at the top of the show with his disdain for theatre and it's critics (!). Elaine Harper, played by Caralyn Steck, had the perfect amount of sass and pout to get the audience on her side as she pursued her engagement to Mortimer (the theatre critic!). Teddy, played by Johnny Rocco, is probably the most random character in the show, but his random outbursts provided big laughs during tense moments. The connection between brothers Jonathan and Mortimer, played by Justin Steck and Vince Stillitano, is tight. Both are very strong, being able to make you laugh and feel the command of their respective authority. Vince was seamless through some (unplanned) stage accidents, which only helped the audience laugh more at the surrounding action. TJ Hayes' Dr. Einstein fits right alongside Jonathan, definitely a relief with his physical comedy throughout the show. The officers, played by Nicholas Shulock, Brandon Anders, and Steve Johnson had a wide range of funny cluelessness and some fun physical comedy with Jonathan. George Bailey plays Lieutenant Rooney, the hard leader of the force. His firm consideration that everything he's hearing couldn't possibly be true makes it all the more hilarious to watch. Last, but not least, is Gary Kern who plays two very different characters, and plays them well. Whereas Mr. Gibbs is a drifter who's found his way into the Brewster sisters BnB, Mr. Witherspoon is the leader of the place Teddy (and his sisters) are supposed to go.


So what's it look like?


The set design, by Todd Plone, was very intricate. With a fully functional door, basement, and second floor, there were plenty of areas for the eye to be drawn. The actors wasted no time making sure to take you where you needed to be. The lighting design, by Avry Rechel, was simple but effective. We saw what we needed to when we needed to, and sometimes we intentionally couldn't quite see exactly what was happening. The sound design, by Maggie Hamilton, was also effective, setting the tone for when (instead of where) we should be. Costumes, by Mayim Hamblen, were on point, fitting perfectly, moving effortlessly, and fitting the time period to a tee. Lastly, as a stage manager myself, shout out to the stage management team of Ann Nyenhuis and Allie Stark for calling and running a great show.


So, what's the hot take?


Go see this show! Don't forget the wine. :) It was a great time seeing so many people that I've walked through so many different spaces of life with. High school, college, previously directed, recently worked with... the list goes on!


Whether it's professional, community, college, high school, or your best friends basement - you should go and see live theatre! It is an intricate art form that people dedicate so much time and energy to, often for free. Whether you're a patron or a fellow artist, take a few hours and go see a show to help support the thriving art scene in Cleveland.


Arsenic and Old Lace is running at Aurora Community Theatre now through February 17th. Get tickets here.

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