By Angela Dell
Draper Historic Theatre brings the classic Arsenic and Old Lace to their stage with positively hilarious results. I had never been to this theater before and found it a charming, quaint little stage.
Mortimer Brewster (Trevor Casperson) gets more than he bargained for when he visits his sweet aunts Martha (Lisa Clayton), and Abby (Beth Morrell). After finding out about a particularly nasty habit they have of killing lonely old men as “charity work”, he questions his own sanity and expresses doubts of marriage with his fiancée, Elaine (Taylor Twitchell). On top of his kooky aunts and brother who pretends to be Teddy Roosevelt (Jared Daley), his murderous brother Jonathan (Spencer Thurman) arrives to crash the party and cause mayhem.
Mortimer, Abby and Martha arguably have the most lines to memorize in the play and are onstage for most of the play. Casperson, Clayton, and Morrell handle the memorization and blocking well. They support and catch each other if someone stumbles on a line or a bit of blocking, which is some of the hardest work an actor does when onstage. When watching productions of Arsenic and Old Lace, it’s easy for Abby and Martha to seem like the same person. Clayton and Morrell do a solid job bringing their own unique personalities to their characters. Clayton brings brightness and a sense of humor to Martha while Morrell brings sensitivity and backbone to Abby that makes them both particularly unique. Both women clearly worked hard on their characters and you can see the care they have for them in their performance. Casperson’s energy on the stage is indefatigable. His urgency and agitation is palpable and causes the show to be set at a quicker pace so the audience stays engaged. Twitchell’s sassy portrayal of Mortimer’s loving fiancée brings a particular twist to the character that seems to make it all her own. She finds honest moments where you can see her vulnerability and moments where she uses her bravery to put up a front. Daley’s charming portrayal of Teddy Brewster seems to be a crowd favorite. It’s so easy to let Teddy’s character be simply a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, but Daley gives Teddy Brewster a personality of his own that peeks out occasionally when he’s not impersonating the iconic president. His sincere personality makes him instantly endearing and he becomes a joy to watch whenever he comes onstage. Thurman’s gruff and menacing portrayal of Jonathan is the perfect foil to Mitch Daley’s sauced and laidback Dr. Einstein. M. Daley’s choices for Dr. Einstein involves a lot of drinking from a flask and a charming, yet clear, high pitched German accent. His voice adds complexity to the cast’s onstage presence and makes him clearly distinguishable. The rest of the supporting characters did well being memorized, and helping their fellow scene partners feel important. Rebekah Ferry’s portrayal of Officer O’Hara was unique and delightful. She adds a quirkiness to the role that had the audience watching her whenever she was onstage. She does a good job finding stage business to do while she’s on stage and those activities are usually silly and interesting to watch.
Set Designer and Director Marc Navez’s stage is set with so many pleasant details it gives the home a comfortable yet busy look. There is enough room for the actors to move around and they even have a functioning window to climb in and out of as well as a cellar with an actual lower level for them to climb down into. I think one of my favorite details that I enjoyed on the stage was the picture they have of a younger Jonathan that they would refer to when talking about his face. For some reason, that picture is just so funny I couldn’t leave it alone.
The choices Alayna Bria made for everyone’s costumes were well thought out. The gray of Mortimer’s suit made him more relatable, Abby’s very stodgy outfit enhanced her dramatic nature, Martha’s pop of turquoise brought out her fun nature, Dr. Einstein’s Argyle sweater vest and bowtie made him seem less threatening than Jonathan in his darker suit and vest, and Elaine’s reds made her pop when she was on stage.
There were children in the audience but there were intense moments in the show and I could hear the kids getting a little scared or worried. The children seemed to have a great time, for the most part, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this show for small children. It’s still funny, but it can also get a little intense. This show will be open for the next few weeks so go and enjoy yourself at Draper Historic Theatre’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace!
Draper Historic Theatre presents Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring
Draper Historic Theatre 12366 S 900 E, Draper, Utah 84020
October 6th– October 23rd 7:00 PM
Draper Historic Theatre Facebook Page
Arsenic and Old Lace Facebook Event