Don’t drink the wine!
Play review by Heather Brush
Now playing at the Elks National Home in Bedford, Little Town Players Theatre presents “Arsenic and Old Lace” by Joseph Kesselring, directed by Jayne Brill. For 36 years, the Little Town Players have been offering and supporting live theater. They were recently honored with a nomination for a Voice of the Arts & Humanities Award in the Cultural Organization category presented by the James River Council for the Arts & Humanities. Little Town Players members come from all over the area, making it a true community theater group.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a dark comedy set in the 1940s. Elderly sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, have taken care of several gentlemen in need of “rest” by offering rooms to let and elderberry wine spiked with a certain arsenic recipe. The basement becomes the final destination for 12 or 13 special guests. Living with the sisters is their nephew Teddy, who believes that he is Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy’s long lost brother Jonathan returns home, bringing with him trouble of the Brewster family sort, in the form of yet another dead body. Will the police catch on to what is really going on, right under their noses, right under their feet?
As the lights go up on the stage, the audience sees a warm setting, a living room of beautiful furniture, with stained glass door and period wallpaper, in a home in Brooklyn, right next door to a small cemetery. Comedic banter is tossed right from the start as we get to know the aunts, played by Connie Canova and Peggy Cooper, Teddy, magnificently portrayed by Jeff Krantz, the reverend Dr. Harper (Stan Butler), and the reverend’s daughter Elaine (Elizabeth Butler). Mortimer Brewster, well played by Tim Kennard, arrives shortly thereafter, and a love story begins to reveal itself. The local precinct’s cops (Greg Ritchie, Jeffrey Roberts, Jeff Bavely and Blake Lipscomb) arrive on the scene, giving delightful Brooklyn flavor to the show.
Soon, the aunts’ scheme is unveiled as they nonchalantly hope for a funeral in the basement. Plans go awry upon the arrival of Jonathan, excellently played by Chris Shepard. Shepard’s character is loud and a bit scary, complete with scar-faced makeup, the actors own, well done, doing. Jonathan’s compatriot, Dr. Einstein, played by Gary Reid, adds more comedic flavor with his interesting surgical habits and intriguing accent.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” is offered up with home town actors who clearly adore their craft, stage direction of professional caliber and a polished presentation to rival those throughout the area. The next show is Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m., again on Saturday at 8 p.m., and closing on Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under and can be purchased at the door, by calling the box office at 540-586-5881, or online at www.lynchburgtickets.com.