MONMOUTH – One of the special gems in Maine’s collection of excellent theaters is shining brighter than ever this summer.

From old favorites of stage comedy to innovative settings of Shakespeare, the Theater at Monmouth is presenting a repertory season sure to please all kinds of audiences. It all takes place in the unique and beautifully restored mini opera house of Cumston Hall.

David Greenham, producing director, said all of the popular repertory actors of last year are back, and they are joined by Dan Olmstead, an equity actor and newcomer to the Monmouth stage. He makes his debut Friday, July 11, in the season-opening production of the hilarious classic “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“We have a great company and they’re all wonderful to work with. I’m really excited about our ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,'” Greenham said.

The hit 1941 Broadway comedy by Joseph Kesserling was immortalized in a 1944 film featuring Cary Grant.

In the Monmouth show, Janis Stevens and Maureen Tannian Butler play the famous sisters, Martha and Abby Brewster, whose arsenic-spiked elderberry wine leads to some hilarious consequences.

Monmouth veterans Greenham, Mike Anthony and Bill Van Horn play the three Brewster nephews, Mortimer, Teddy and Jonathan.

The cast also features Mark S. Cartier as Dr. Einstein, Anna Soloway as Elaine Harper, and Olmstead as Reverend Harper and the hard-boiled police lieutenant. Others in the cast are Frank Omar, Ian Austin and J.P. Guimont, as well as Anthony Arnista whose acting talents are on display as a hilarious “dead body.”

The production is directed by Bowdoin College Theater Department professor Davis Robinson.

The set is by Dan Bilodeau, costumes by Patti Campbell, lights by Lynne Chase, sound by Rew Tippin and props by Dan Andruss.

The second play in the repertory rotation is “The Mystery of Irma Vep.” While “Arsenic and Old Lace” is a well-known favorite, this offering is less known. Nevertheless, Greenham said he’s sure audiences will love it.

“It’s a riot,” he affirmed, describing it as “a great takeoff on Victorian melodrama and old films” such as “Rebecca” and “Frankenstein.”

This masterwork by Charles Ludlum, one of the most dynamic and flamboyant leaders of the New York avant-garde, is a two-man tour de force. Dustin Tucker and Mike Anthony play all the men, women and monsters of Mendacrest Manor on the Moors.

“The Mystery of Irma Vep,” directed by Janis Stevens, opens July 18.

Greenham emphasized that TAM has been widely recognized over 38 seasons for its many productions of the plays of William Shakespeare.

This season, “The Merchant of Venice” opens July 25 with Van Horn in the pivotal role of Shylock. The show is directed by Jeri Pitcher. Greenham noted that TAM is introducing a new program with this production. Each performance will feature a discussion either before or after, focusing on an aspect of the play and its context. Partners for this project include Augusta’s Temple Beth El and the Maine Holocaust and Human Rights Center, as well as scholars Jill Rubinson and H.R. Coursen.

Opening Aug. 1 will be “The Winter’s Tale,” set in pre-Civil War Maine. Greenham called this “a beautiful romance and comedy” that explores themes of jealousy and redemption. Directed by Van Horn, the play features tight harmony songs of the period.

Also on the summer schedule is a production of “The Three Little Pigs” for children. It’s an original version written by Greenham with “jazzy blues” music by Marcia Gallagher. Opening date is Aug. 5.

Coming in late September and early October is the TAM’s presentation of “The Mikado” by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Greenham pointed out that extensive restoration work throughout historic Cumston Hall is nearing completion. The latest accomplishment is completion of the original trompe d’oeil wall designs around the theater.

For tickets or more information, go online to or call 933-9999.

Show schedule

“Arsenic and Old Lace,” opens July 11

The Mystery of Irma Vep,” opens July 18

Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice, opens July 25

“The Winter’s Tale,” set in pre-Civil War Maine, opens Aug. 1

“The Three LIttle Pigs” for children, opens Aug. 5

“The Mikado,” by Gilbert and Sullivan, late September

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