Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
A friend fondly described it as an old chestnut. After seeing Friday’s performance we can agree that Flint Community Players’ current offering of Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace is a well-roasted and yummy evening of theatre.
Just to recap what most theatre-goers already know about this show – set in 1941, it is a comedy with a wry twist involving two spinster sisters who rent rooms to old fellows with no place to go. Feeling sorry for them, they dispatch them to everlasting life with a glass of their elderberry wine and conduct appropriate funerals for them in the basement.
Laura Kline and Patty Bracey are perfect as Abby and Martha Brewster. Kline has stepped out of the costume shop and the box office to play this principal role. Why has she been hiding! She and local theatre veteran Bracey are a hysterical pair in their efforts to maintain the Brewster heritage. Dressed in vintage dresses (even for 1941) they captivate our attention whenever they are onstage. We fully expect them to prevail.
Then, there’s nephew Teddy, played with gusto and madcap bravado by Philip Kautz. Believing completely that he IS Teddy Roosevelt, Kautz spouts proclamations, blows his bugle and charges up the stairs (San Juan Hill). He is also digging the “Panama Canal” in the cellar.
Justin Wetenhall portrays Mortimer Brewster, also a nephew and the local theatre critic, a job he disdains to say the least. He exudes a sense of confidence and some pomposity at first, but he will face a host of challenges before the night ends.
The girl next door, Elaine Harper, played by Jesse Jeane Eldredge, is clearly in love with Mortimer. They seem destined to live happily ever after until the unexpected arrival of Mortimer’s dreadful older brother almost makes her a victim!
Christopher Dinnan plays Jonathan Brewster to a terrifying tee! Jonathan has a long history of awful behavior, and when he and his mewling sycophant sidekick, Dr. Einstein (Shane McNicol) come knocking, things begin to really heat up.
A few local policemen pass through the Brewster house off and on. Brett Smith and Thomas Goedert epitomize the small town local constabulary that was probably Brooklyn in these days. Later, Zachery Wood reveals his wacky character as Officer O’Hara, a fledgling playwright who enlists Mortimer’s reluctant help in finishing his script.
First impressions are a big deal, so upon entering the theatre the set for this show is startling in its detail and vintage authenticity. Kudos for this design to Rick Doll and Sam Di Vita. It literally set the tone before the show began.
Director Di Vita has marshaled her large cast well. They move easily, trip terrifically, and utilize the four, maybe five (!), distinct entrances nicely. Above all, their characterizations are so well developed and believable that Friday’s audience was heard to chuckle, gasp and then occasionally guffaw at the antics on the FCP stage.
Arsenic and Old Lace continues through March 24 at the Flint Community Players, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy, Flint, 48507. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-235-6963 or find them online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com