“Arsenic and Old Lace” set for April 28-30, May 1
The Bay Tree Council for the Performing Arts’ third and final production of the season, “Arsenic and Old Lace” by Joseph Kesselring, will be performed April 28-30 at 7 p.m. and May 1 at 2 p.m. at Community Spirit Bank’s Weatherford Centre in Red Bay.
The play is a farcical black comedy revolving around the Brewster family, descended from the “Mayflower” but now composed of insane homicidal maniacs. The hero, Mortimer Brewster, is a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and local police in Brooklyn, N.Y., as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves. 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.
The production features a large cast – including Scotty Kennedy, who plays Jonathan Brewster, remarkably, the same character he played when the BTCPA performed “Arsenic and Old Lace” in 1999.
“I’m the nephew of the two old ladies,” Kennedy said. “I get to play somebody who is dark and actually very mean – a murderer.
“I’m actually scaring some of the other actors,” he added.
But this isn’t a horror story. Following BTCPA’s custom, the performance will be a family-friendly comedy.
“This is a very classic play for community theatres everywhere,” Kennedy said. “Pretty much every community theatre you know of has done it at least once. Even though it kind of has a dark theme, about the two old ladies, poisoning men, it’s very very funny.”
The story also includes a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home (which then serve as graves for the aunts’ victims; he thinks that they died of Yellow Fever).
Kennedy is the only returning cast member who performed in the 1999 production. Also returning is Mark Richardson, who acted in the 1999 show but will direct the performance this year.
“This is a fun play to do,” Richardson said. “And we get to recall what we’ve done in the past and have fond memories of how we did it in the past.”
In 1999, the BTCPA was only in its fourth season, and performing “Arsenic and Old Lace” was “a little bit of a challenge to us,” Richardson said, recalling the small stage and small set they dealt with then. “We were a little wet behind the ears, but we had a good time.”
And they’re still having a good time.
“Rehearsals have gone pretty well,” Richardson said. “It’s a large cast, and so when you have a large cast you have some challenges in scheduling … but all in all it’s been going really well. Everyone is working hard and is excited about producing this.”
Tickets are on sale now at the Weatherford Centre. People may go by or call 256-356-9829 to purchase or reserve tickets between the hours of 2-4 p.m. weekdays or call Beth Hammock at 256-356-9286 for information about group sales. Tickets are $8 each – a rate Kennedy said is “unheard of in other community theatres – you’ll pay up to $18-20.” The rate remains low, Kennedy added, because of the support from Community Spirit Bank, which allows the BTCPA to rehearse and perform at the Weatherford Centre and covers the costs of utilities and bills.
But although the Weatherford Centre is an upscale facility, Richardson emphasized that “everyone is welcome – it’s not something that’s so formal that it would (be restrictive),” he said. “We want everybody to have fun. We’re laidback, and we want everyone else to be laidback when they come see the play.”