Today’s Art Talk Monday is from Latoya Pierce with Ruston Community Theatre. To get your Arsenic and Old Lace tickets early, click here. Otherwise you can purchase them at the door before showtime.
Arsenic and Old Lace sponsored by Northwood Medical Center, Dr. Ben Grigsby, is Ruston Community Theatre’s season opener for 2017-2018. Directed by Satish Bharadvaj, the play is a comedy written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939 and details the complex inter-weavings of the Brewster family. Abby and Martha Brewster are two elderly sisters who have made it their civic duty to put lonely old men out of their misery. Their nephews, Teddy and Jonathan, have their own quirks and nuances that add depth to the Brewster clan. Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic for a New York newspaper and the third nephew of Abby and Martha, is left to decipher the mysterious happenings at his aunts’ home while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy in his own life.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the show’s director, Satish Bharadvaj, and a few cast members. When asked how he would describe the play, Satish stated “for those who say laughter is the best medicine, this is a heavy dose of that medicine. It’s a hilarious play that takes place in the Brewster home in Brooklyn. There are two aunts living there who help lonely people by providing them wine laced with arsenic…to relieve them from their sorrow.” As other family members (the nephews) and characters become aware of what’s going on, the plot begins to unravel. “There are lots of exciting moments (in the play)…people finding out about what’s going on in the Brewster home and manipulating the situation.”
While murder is the crux of the play, remember that the production is indeed a comedy. It could even be described as a smart comedy as Satish states that “it’s not only the comedy (in terms of funny lines), but there is comedy between the lines that is hidden.” The play also has historical references to the era in which it was written and makes connections to criminal organizations as well.
Geri Taylor plays Martha Brewster in the production, and describes her character as “the older sister to Abby who is somewhat ditsy, goofy, and demented; she has a knack for making very off-the-wall statements. Martha is educated, very Victorian, and comes from an affluent family, which in many ways, dictates how she relates to the other characters”. Geri states that the play “is a classic…it’s nostalgic and people should be a part of that. It’s familiar enough to where patrons know it is going to be fun, with twists and turns, high energy, and just a good show.”
Jennifer Calloway plays Abby Brewster in the production, and describes her character as “part of a duo of elderly sisters, and she is the dominant sister. Their charity is to get rid of the loneliness they see in many older man by killing them. Once their nephew Jonathan comes into the plot, it is a comedy of errors after that.” Jennifer loves that Abby is “clueless to the fact that what she is doing is wrong, because she really does believe she’s providing charity.” Jennifer describes this production as “comedy to the nth degree; it’s very tongue and cheek, which makes for a good show.”
Britton Kilpatrick plays Mortimer Brewster in the production, and describes his character as a “straight laced guy, who has a good job and has found a nice girl that he loves, but has run into a big shock about his family.” Mortimer is a versatile character and displays a gambit of emotions throughout the show, which Britton states “has been fun.” Britton has been in other RCT productions, but this is his first comedy and sees it as a new adventure. He states that patrons “will enjoy the show so much, they will lose track of time.”
Nicholas Reeve plays Jonathan Brewster in the production, and describes his character as “having the Brewster crazy in him. He’s done some pretty bad things in his life and he’s very proud of that.” Nick states that Jonathan “is the first evil character he’s gotten to play and so it’s been fun to explore this type of character.” Nick had portrayed “good, upstanding characters in past productions” and is excited to utilize his acting background in a very different way. This is Nick’s first production with RCT (though he is a part of the Tech theatre family) and says that he has been very pleased with “the sense of community” exuded in this experience.
Kennedy Ford plays Teddy Brewster in the production, and states that his character believes he is Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, including his behavior and mannerisms. Kennedy likes playing this character as he’s never had a role that is so deeply steeped in American history. This gave Kennedy the opportunity to research his character’s alter ego as Teddy Roosevelt by reading books and watching documentaries. Kennedy has been in quite a few RCT productions and states that he loves “the variety of this show; there’s serious comedy and silliness both in the show…and the nuances in between the lines make it a wonderful production.”
Arsenic and Old Lace runs October 5th-8th at the Dixie Center for the Arts, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7pm and a Sunday matinee at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.mkt.com/rctruston or at the door one hour before each performance. All in all, it sounds like this production will be a wonderful show, and one you don’t want to miss.