Farcical black comedy 'Arsenic and Old Lace' opens Feb. 14

Farcical black comedy 'Arsenic and Old Lace' opens Feb. 14

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Orcutt Community Theater presents the classic screwball comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, by Joseph Kesselring, opening Feb. 14 at the KDA Studios, 3546 Skyway Drive, Studio One.

This farcical black comedy revolves around the Brewster family, descended from the Mayflower settlers but now composed of maniacs, most of them homicidal. The hero, Mortimer Brewster, is a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, murderous family and local police in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942 as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves, Elaine Harper, who lives next door and is the daughter of the local minister.

His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and "just a pinch" of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home, which then serves as graves for the aunts' victims; he thinks that they died of yellow fever.

Mortimer’s murderous brother Jonathan has recently arrived from years overseas, and has received plastic surgery to conceal his identity, performed by his alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein, a character based on real-life gangland surgeon Joseph Moran. Due to the botched surgery Jonathan now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff. This is an in-joke, as the part was originally played on Broadway by Karloff himself.

The "murderous old lady" plot line may also have been inspired by actual events that occurred in a house on Prospect Street in Windsor, Connecticut, where a woman, Amy Archer-Gilligan, took in boarders, promising "lifetime care", and poisoned them for their pensions.

The play is co-directed by husband and wife team, Candyce Columbus and Dan Bullard, who have been featured in the casts of several OCT productions. The Brewster sisters are portrayed by Dixie Arthur and Valerie Pallai, both longtime veterans of the local stage. Paul Chavez is Mortimer Brewster and Amaris Taylor is Elaine, the star-crossed lovers that must reconcile their recent engagement plans with the reality of his homicidal relatives.

Rounding out the cast are Craig Scott, Matthew Babcock, Jeffrey Stasos, Clare Terrill, Laura Gonzalez, Heather Babcock and Alan Sutterfield. Original music composed by David Donati.

Performances are at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 1:30 p.m. Sundays, from Febr. 14 through March 1, at the KDA Studios, 3546 Skyway Drive. Tickets can be purchased online at My805Tix.com or by calling 805-423-4451.

For more information contact Alan Sutterfield at 805-268-2993, or alansutterfield@yahoo.com

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