'Arsenic' marks return of Crestview theatre: Review

Arsenic & Old Lace

They’re sweet, they’re endearing and they’re murderesses. Sandra Peters, left, and Ashleigh Gonyea as Abby and Martha Brewster brighten the stage in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

BERIT FAUST | News Bulletin
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 01:51 PM.


CRESTVIEW — The production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” by the new community theatre troupe is more than a delightful evening of murder, mayhem and elderberry wine. It is a significant milestone in the north county’s cultural life, marking the return of community theatre. That the show is sheer delight from start to finish is just the icing on the cake.

Joseph Kesselring’s magnificent black comedy has delighted American theatre audiences for decades. With its old-timey, stately veneer, it’s tempting to think you’re about to settle in for an evening of dated drama and hokey jokes that might have evoked howls in the 1940s but just seem dumb today. Not so. 

Kesselring’s tale of gracious murderesses, their frazzled, recently engaged nephew, his preacher’s daughter fiancée, his gangster brother, a mad plastic surgeon, another sibling who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and a cop on the beat who’d rather be a playwright, remains as fun and fresh today as when it was written in 1940.

The as-yet unnamed Crestview community theatre group bringing it to life on the Warriors Hall stage has done a marvelous job of evoking the ambience of an old Brooklyn house. The set, under the direction of Eric Wintersteen, is perfectly overdecorated with ample opportunities for exits and entrances, door slamming and Teddy Roosevelt’s frequent charges up the San Juan Hill of the main staircase.

Coupled with delightful costuming and makeup, the visual appeal of the show is as important as the acting, and for the most part, the performers were bang on target. Particularly enjoyable is Sandra Peters as spinster Abby Brewster. I’ve been dying to see Sandra act since she first arrived in Crestview and told me she’d been on New York stages.

We were delighted with the performance of Crestview High School senior Jack Barr as the frazzled Mortimer, theatre critic nephew who discovers Abby and her sister, Martha, played convincingly by Asleigh Gonyea, have been performing acts of mercy by poisoning lonely old men seeking to rent a room in their rambling old home.

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