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Theatre review: ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ dir. Marianne Savell

Forget the Kardashians, the Brewster family is much more entertaining

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Old lace

David Drummond, Kim Morris and Pam Nolte in "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Taproot Theatre. 

In “Arsenic and Old Lace,” one murderer looks like one, the other two, working together, are two innocent-seeming old ladies with the delusional goal of helping old men “find peace.” All three are part of the same family, the Brewsters, and needless to say, comedy ensues as the one sane family member, Mortimer, tries to sort everything out.

The Taproot Theater Company is performing the classic tale, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and did a great job bringing the crazy story of the Brewster family to life.  

Walking into the theater, the set was outstanding. In this theater, seating is not set staring at a stage, instead, the seating is arranged around the stage in a ‘U’ formation, with a balcony mirroring below, and it felt like you were watching the scene unfold in the house itself. The set was two stories, with an intricate staircase and antique style living room, which was easy to imagine being an older woman’s home.

Kim Morris and Pam Nolte star as the two sweet aunts Abby and Martha, who have developed the slightly problematic habit of poisoning the men who come into their house.

These two actresses worked beautifully off each other. The innocence they portrayed when explaining their murders to their nephew Mortimer (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) was spot-on and actually a little terrifying because they showed no remorse for killing a dozen men.

On the other side of the family, Jonathan (David Drummond), was the perfect example of what to expect from a criminal mass murderer. Once he shows up out of the blue at his aunts’ house, everything goes haywire as Jonathan and his partner bring another body into the house, in addition to one that Mortimer discovers earlier that day.

Adding to the madness, Teddy Brewster (Stephen Grenley), firmly believes that he is Teddy Roosevelt and that the basement of the aunts’ house is the Panama Canal. The aunts take advantage of this by having him prepare the graves for their victims. Grenley did a phenomenal job at portraying the character, and the political and historical jokes were fantastic.

In many comedies, the show is anchored by one character with common sense. In this play, however, the whole family is basically useless. Mortimer is the closest character to having common sense, but even he can’t fix the jumbled mess that is his family.

This play has the capability to run off the rails if not performed right. With an intricate plot and complicated characters, such as the aunts, if the theater doesn't have a spectacular cast it could fall short of being funny and just be stupid.

That's not the case with the Taproot Theater Company. Each and every member of the cast performed at a high level and made this show something to remember. As someone who had never seen the play or the movie before, this was a spectacular introduction to it.

The play is running Jan. 23 to Mar. 2 Wednesday through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online here.

The verdict: This is a must-see production, and with it only being about 20 minutes away from the U-District, it's well worth the trip and cost of the ticket.

Reach writer Zach Jablonski at Twitter: @ZachJablonski14

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