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Arsenic and Old Lace

Fall 2017

At The Reif Center -Ives Studio

Director: Steve Jaeger

Assistant Director: Connie Lefler

Set design: Rob Lepak

The Grand Rapids Players completed production of Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by GRPlayers veteran, Steve Jaeger.  His name is well-known throughout the community for his stellar performances on stage over the past 40 years.  Chelsey Johnson made her debut in assistant director shoes. Rob Lepak designed and constructed the set. Five performances took place on October 13-22, 2017 in the Ives Theater.

Arsenic and Old Lace 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, NY, 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 and a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal.  Except, the ‘locks’ are in the cellar of the Brewster home (which then serve as graves for the aunts' victims).  On top of that, he’s been convinced by the sisters, that they died of Yellow Fever!  And, of course, no family is complete without a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein (a character based on real-life gangland surgeon Joseph Moran) to conceal his identity, and now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff!

Arsenic and Old Lace was written in 1939 by the American playwright Joseph Kesselring, It opened on Broadway at the Fulton Theatre on January 10, 1941 and moved to the Hudson Theatre where it closed on June 17, 1944, having played 1,444 performances.  Of the twelve plays written by Kesselring, Arsenic and Old Lace was the most successful, and, according to the opening night review in The New York Times, the play was "so funny that none of us will ever forget it."

The cast consisted  of 14 will represent middle-aged to elderly characters.  According to Director Jaeger, “I’ll be looking, specifically, for one ingénue female to play the part of Mortimer’s fiancée, Elaine.  And even tho’ the original cast of Arsenic was predominately men, I didn’t feel a need to re-create that design.  In the world of theatre, ANYTHING can happen!”   

"...and just a pinch of cyanide."
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