For old-fashioned comedy, in old-fashioned summer stock style, in an old-fashioned summer theater look no further than ARSENIC AND OLD LACE on the Fitzpatrick Main Stage of the Berkshire Theater Group in Stockbridge. Forget the parallels between a heavy-headed world of 1939 when ARSENIC AND OLD LACE was first staged and today – just forget all about today – and surrender to the timeless, silly delight of Joseph Kesselring’s tale of the loony, homicidal, Mayflower-descendant Brewster family made famous in Frank Capra’s 1944 film classic.
Broadway leading man Graham Rowat, heads the spirited cast (which always looks like it’s having fun) as nephew Mortimer careening from pulling-his-hair-out bewilderment at his maiden aunts’ deadly little hobby to a comic athleticism that recalls Cary Grant in the movie version. Broadway veterans Mia Dillon and Tony winner Harriet Harris are irresistible as homicidal aunts Martha and Abby. Dillon’s perky impishness is as sweet as Harris’ impeccable timing is droll. Timothy Golan, as Mortimer's delusional brother Teddy who believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt makes hilarious his obsession of digging the Panama Canal in the cellar of his family's Brooklyn brownstone. (Guess what for?)
Director Gregg Edelman makes madcap all the farce. Kesselring's not-a-word-wasted script lands brilliant comic one-liners, the kind they don’t write enough of any more. My favorite: Mortimer describes his crazy family as "if Strindberg wrote HELLZAPOPPIN'." Don’t rush out before the final curtain call, where, in a devilish turn to the audience, Aunt Martha might offer some elderberry wine. She’s so charming, it’ll be hard to resist.
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