Monday, September 11, 2023

Arsenic and Old Lace—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego


The Merry Madness of the Macabre

        This farce, by Joseph Kesselring, is directed by Don Alder.  It is playing through October 15th at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (free parking lot in the rear).  For more information on the show and/or tickets, go to their website or call 503-635-3901.

    It’s about time this “ole chestnut” was dusted off.  Not only is it one of the rare parodies of thrillers that works (akin to the excellent, A&C Meet Frankenstein), but it also comes at a perfect time (perhaps, unwittingly) in which we can find humor in dire circumstances.  Mel Brooks proclaimed that the best weapon against Evil was laughter, as it hates to be laughed at.  Granted that was not meant to be the theme of this play originally, but it certainly comes at a welcome time…shaking our fists at the horrors of madness, reminding us that sanity and love will still win the day!

    Wow, what a madcap ride!  It begins with two gentle, rich old ladies, Abby ((Caren Graham) and her amiable sister, Marth Brewster (Jane Bement Geesman), pillars of the town to children, as well as elderly, lonely gentlemen, who find comfort in the fruit of the vine of these gentle, helpful souls.

    They do have a noisy nephew, Teddy (Grant Byington), who is the “President” and has a passion for digging holes in the basement; and another nephew, Mortimer (Tom Walton), who is a drama critic who hates plays, but is engaged to Elaine (Melissa Whitney), the daughter of the local Reverend Harper (Michael Streeter); and a nefarious nephew, Jonathon (Todd Hermanson), who is a man of many faces and professions, all outside the law; with his oily companion, Dr. Einstein (Mark Schwahn), who espouses of his talents as a plastic surgeon, that “practice makes perfect.”

    Among the able supporting cast of cops and victims are Joe Healy, Will Futterman, Erik James, Robert Lovitz, and Jeremy Southard.  Being a thrill/mystery, I really don’t want to be a spoiler, so can’t give you much details of the plot.  But will give you hints-- Teddy’s holes/locks have a double meaning; the old gals “Elderbury” wine makes quite a wallop; the window seat is a key clue of concealment; and Mortimer is not quite who he seems.  ‘Nuf said.

    Alder has done a wonderful job of restoring a much-needed nostalgic look to the yesteryear of theatre, which has sorely been neglected, I believe, in the rush of new works to grace the stage.  All the performers do a splendid job of recreating a lost era of theatre.  Graham and Geesman are terrific as the erasable ole ladies, and Hermanson is a ghoulish delight as the chief felonious fiend.

    I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.