Lakewood Playhouse’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” seems to be the odd-play-out of sorts considering that the theater is marking its diamond anniversary with this comedic season opener.
The rest of its season includes the all-but guaranteed “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT,” after all. So to stage such a go-to play like “Arsenic and Old Lace” is like a community theater staging any of the works of Agatha Christie. It might be a great show, but not something to get the pre-show buzz. The play is returning to the Lakewood Playhouse stage for the first time since 1997, which this reviewer remember, so I might be a bit biased in that regard. I still have a copy of the review around my office somewhere.
A three-act play repackaged in two acts, the first “half” logged in at an hour and a half, which caused some tight back muscles even in the theater’s new comfy chairs. That said, it was a fun show. But it was what it was.
Anyone who has gone to stage performances for any length of time has seen the show, so it is a bit like hearing a great joke for the second or third or fourth time. The pack of the punch is mostly lost. But it did add a little something-something for folks who have sat for the show before.
Director Dale Westgaard pulled all the energy from his actors and channeled their efforts into a solidly funny and gag-filled dark comedy that was staged on one of the most extensively effective sets, designed by Amanda Sweger, to ever call Lakewood home. The costumes and props, by Alex Lewington and Virginia Yanoff, finished off the period piece’s authenticity.
But as all shows, this one rests on the actors who bring the words on a page to life. And they certainly do that, and they do it well.
The reluctant theater critic Mortimer Brewster (played by Jacob Tice) finds himself visiting his aunts Aby and Martha (Diana George and Rebecca Lea McCarthy). They just happen to have the habit of poisoning potential lodgers and visitors with elderberry wine and burying them in their basement. Toss in a brother who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt (Jeffery Weaver) and a psychotic hitman (Chris Cantrell) with a body in need of burial and the house gets filled with funny bits as well as corpses.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” runs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 13. Tickets are $25 with student and military discounts. The theatre is located within the Lakewood Towne Center, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Contact (253) 588-0042 or www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.