(Posted 4:30 p.m., Feb. 26)
Older Players deliver 'killer' comedy
By Fred Sherwin
The maniacal Jonathan Brewster (left) and
his accomplice Dr. Einstein are about to change
Mortimer Brester's face "the hard way"
ina scene from the Orleans Older Players production
of Arsenic and Old Lace. Fred Sherwin/Photo
OYP's Orleans Older Players class took on its most ambitious
production yet this past weekend, with a wonderful performance
of the classical black comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace".
performance starred local theatre veterans Marni Hunt-Stephens
and Biz MacDonald in the roles of Abby and Martha Brewster,
spinster sisters who who have taken to murdering lonely
old men by poisoning them with a glass of homemade elderberry
wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and "just a
pinch" of cyanide.
live in a large house with their nephew Teddy who thinks
he is Teddy Roosevelt and spends his spare time digging
the Panama Canal in the basement, which actually doubles
as a cemetery for the sisters' victims who he believes
are canal workers who've succumbed to yellow fever.
sisters' latest victim is Mr. Hoskins who they are temporarily
storing in a window seat. When the sisters' other nephew
Mortimer, played by James Emmett, accidentally discovers
the body, he assumes his crazy brother killed him. But
when his aunts tell him rather matter of factly that it
was they who killed him and that he is their twelfth,
or thirteenth victim depending on which aunt you believe,
the hijinx begins.
Mortimer tries to figure out how to handle the situation,
his other brother Jonathan arrives. Jonathan, who was
played wonderfully by OOPS veteran Tina Chan, is a maniacal
criminal who has altered his appearance with the help
of his partner in crime Dr. Einstein, to look like Boris
Einstein is a wild-eyed, even wilder-haired plastic surgeon
who is in a constant state of intoxication. He was played
by Celine Nadeau, who owned the part.
wants to take over the house and turn it into an operating
room where Dr. Einstein can practice his craft.
the way to the house Jonathan killed a man named Mr. Spenalzo
and placed his body in the truck of their car.
after Jonathan and Dr. Einstein arrive at the house, Teddy
invites Dr. Einstein into the basement to help him with
the canal. When Einstein sees the hole in the cellar he
tells Jonathan about it and they decide to use it to dispose
of their victim's body in the middle of the night. Unbeknownst
to them, Teddy also plans to use the hole to bury Mr.
Hoskins. Both bodies end up in the same window seat and
soon Jonathan becomes aware what his aunts have been up
the meantime, Mortimer has made several failed attempts
to inform the police about his maniacal brother, while
at the same time, trying to have Teddy committed to an
insane asylum in the event that the bodies are discovered
an he can focus the blame away from his aunts.
is also deathly afraid that he will end up going crazy
as well. As he says to his fiancé Elaine, "Insanity
runs in my family, it practically gallops!"
commotion caused by the moving of bodies and turning on
and off of lights draws the attention of the local constabulary.
When Officer Brophy arrives, Mortimer has been tied up
by Jonathan and Dr. Einstein who are about to change his
face. In the very funny scene that follows, Officer Brophy
who is an aspiring playwright, tells Mortimer, who is
a theatre critic, all about her latest work while Mortimer,
who is bound and gagged, tries to free himself.
is eventually rescued by Officer O'Hara who recognizes
Jonathan from a wanted poster in the police station. Apparently
Jonathan has killed, 12 or 13, people himself, which places
him in a virtual tie with his aunts.
is arrested, Dr. Einstein gets away and Teddy is committed
to the Happy Dale Sanitarium. In trying to figure out
what to do with his aunts he ingeniously comes up with
a plan for them to join their nephew at Happy Dale on
the premise that there are lots of lonely, old men in
the institution who they maybe of service to.
before the sisters leave the house they cannot help themselves
in finding a 13th victim to break the tie between themselves
and Jonathan. When they find out that the Sanitarium directors,
Mr. Witherspoon, is a lonely, older gentleman with no
family or loved one's, they invite him to try a glass
of their homemade elderberry wine.
production was fantastic from beginning to end, with lots
of funny bits ranging from side-splintingly hilarious
to understated chuckling. Hunt-Stephens and MacDonald
both reminded me of the granny in the Tweety bird cartoons
with their constant shuffling and their mannerisms.
I wrote earlier, Tina Chan was brilliant as the maniacal
Jonathan as was Celine Nadeau. David Shackleton was also
quite hilarious as the nutty Teddy who would yell "Charge!"
every time he went up the stairs. And James Emmett was
brilliant as well as the often confused and bewildered
Mortimer Brewster who turned out not to be a Brewster
after all, he was adopted much to his overwhelming relief.
rest of the cast included Christine Braham as Sister Rose,
AnnMarie Nielsen as Elaine Harper, André Lacasse
as Mr. Witherspoon, Brenda Bogue as Officer Klein, Lyne
Shackleton as Officer Brophy, and Sue Ashton as Mr. Hoskins,
Mr. Gibbs and Officer O`Hara. Monique Ricketts provided
the musical interludes accompanied on guitar by Mr. Lacasse.
play was directed by OOPS instructor Susan Flemming and
stage managed by Jacquie Squires.
next OOPS production will be this fall. To fin out more
about the Orleans Older Players class visit http://www.oypts.ca.
Marni Hunt-Stephens (left) and Biz MacDonald
play sisters Abby and Martha Brewster in the
Orleans Older Players production of Arsenic
and Old Lace. Fred Sherwin/Photo
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business partners.)
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