CENTERVILLE – What’s a little homicide between family members?
“Arsenic and Old Lace,” playing at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre now through Feb. 9, is a macabre hoot that’s definitely darker and stranger than I remembered. It’s also hilarious, with a cast that will get you laughing even when you probably shouldn’t.
For those of you who only have vague memories of the 1944 movie, “Arsenic and Old Lace” contains a lot of killing. It’s mostly well-meant homicide, done by cheerful people who genuinely believe they’re doing good, but some might find it unnerving. The play’s other zaniness comes from either attempted murder or covering up the deaths.
The real surprise of the play is how much fun those activities can be. As the Brewster sisters, Chris Brown and Meredith Gibson were a constant delight in the show’s Monday night opening. They’re equally happy to visit with their beloved nephew or plan a proper Methodist funeral, and their enthusiasm makes even the most morbid dialogue funny.
The sisters’ sense of propriety also added to the humor. Both Brown and Gibson did a great job maintaining the absolute conviction that what they were saying made perfect sense. It was the rest of the world that was crazy.
As their nephew Mortimer, Bob Bedore managed to find more shades of frantic than I’d known existed. His role in the play is essentially one long spit-take, and he handles it with restraint-free aplomb.
His criminally insane brother Jonathan, played by Jonathan Tate, packed a surprising amount of menace into his voice. (Note: the constant references to the character looking like Boris Karloff are an in-joke. The character was originally played by Karloff onstage).
Jeremy Jonsson, playing another nephew who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, imbued the character with a surprising amount of dignity. Nathan Riddle, as the criminal surgeon Dr. Einstein, imbued his character with a surprising amount of sweetness. Together, they’re the closest thing the play has to a stabilizing force, and it was a pleasure to watch both of them.
Not that things in the Brewster house will ever get too stable. That’s part of the fun.
Just make sure not to drink the elderberry wine.
For tickets, call 801-298-1302 or visit centerpointtheater.org.