Arsenic and Old Lace

Oct. 9-11, 16-18, 8 p.m.

Oct. 12 and 19, 2 p.m.


James F. Dean Community Theatre

133 S. Main St., Summerville

(843) 875-9251

In some ways, community theaters are to professional equity theater what farm teams are to major league baseball.

It’s a place to groom talent, experiment with new things, and provide a lot of entertaining bang for the buck.

And yet, a community theater does more, because it draws cast and crew directly from our own communities and redefines, in the original and best possible sense, the term amateur — someone who participates in something for the love of doing so.

By providing adult acting classes, director workshops, and the like, community theaters tease out surprising, hidden talent among our friends and neighbors.

Actors, directors, playwrights, stagehands, and set designers each have a shot at polishing their skills before a live audience.

Their enthusiasm quickly becomes our enthusiasm.

Flowertown Players in Summerville have been reaching into the local talent pool for more than 30 years. This level of experience shows. Particularly when they bring an old favorite like Arsenic and Old Lace to the stage.

Joseph Kesselring’s wickedly twisted screwball comedy revolves around two quirky spinsters, Abby Brewster (Marty Mayer) and Martha (Jane Hodge Batten) who pass their days in 1940s Brooklyn devoting themselves to charitable works in their neighborhood.

Deciding that it would be a waste to let vacant rooms remain empty in the rambling old house they inherited from their brother, the sisters occasionally take in boarders. They cannot help but notice the loneliness of the older, unattached men that fate brings to their door.

Together, they devise their own prescription for this sad condition. That’s when things get — well, lively. At least for their nephew Mortimer Brewster (Adam Miles), who almost literally stumbles onto the results of his aunt’s charitable efforts.

Life in the Brewster home, already complicated, gets even more so quickly. Mortimer’s brother, Teddy (Kevin Crafton) thinks he’s President Theodore Roosevelt and disturbs the neighbors with his bugle-charges up the stairs at all hours.

Mortimer, a drama critic and confirmed bachelor, finds himself in love with the girl next door, Elaine Harper (Corinne Tyo). As the daffy madness running in the Brewster blood becomes more evident, Mortimer despairs of his wedding plans to Elaine. Can he, in good conscience, doom this poor girl to life with a potential madman?

In the great tradition of screwball comedies, still more complications are in store.

Mortimer’s criminally insane brother Jonathan (Barry Schafer) lands on the doorstep. On the lam from the law, wearing a new face (vaguely reminiscent of Boris Karloff) courtesy of his plastic surgeon crony Dr. Einstein (Peter Regalbuto), the pair of them arrive in Brooklyn dragging along yet another corpse.

It’s a mercy that none of the law men in the play seem to grasp what’s happening all around them.

Flowertown Players provide an entirely entertaining production here.

With standout performances spread among the cast and a good comedic pace throughout, the evening is bound to please anyone who fondly remembers the classic black-and-white comedies that ran on Saturday afternoon television.

It’s great fun, and the actors romp around the impressively designed stage set with infectious glee. All in all, Flowertown’s Arsenic and Old Lace deserves kudos for giving us a charming, eye-opening look at an old favorite.

A perfect Halloween treat.

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