AUBURN — Community Little Theatre’s stage explodes with Brewster family insanity as the accomplished cast of “Arsenic and Old Lace” puts new life into that 75-year-old comedy classic.

Community Little Theatre opens its 74th season with this uproarious play. Remaining performances are Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 10-13. This staging, under the direction of Adam P. Blais, marks the fourth time the black farce has been presented by CLT. The previous productions were in 1947, the mid-1970s, and in the mid-1990s.

Fine performances by several principal characters carry the outlandish plot to a crowd-pleasing finish. For members of the audience who have seen this play a few times over the years, it’s a comfortably familiar version that sticks to the quirky approach of the original play, as well as the movie with Cary Grant. For newcomers, the show’s frantic pace slides over a lot of out-dated dialogue.

Andrea Quaid and Vicki Machado deliver excellent portrayals of Abby and Martha Brewster, the prim and proper maiden aunts whose homicidal tendencies nearly drive their nephew, Mortimer, mad. They believe it’s their charitable duty to hasten the end for homeless, lonely, elderly gentlemen who happen their way, so they treat them to their homemade elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine and cyanide. The Brewster basement is rapidly filling with graves.

Eric Brakey’s performance as Mortimer Brewster is outstanding. His role calls for ever-accelerating anxiety as one revelation after another compounds his family’s surreal circumstances. He’s a theater critic and his role allows him to throw quite a few darts at the notably negative reviewers of Broadway’s offerings in the 1930s and ’40s.

Mortimer is engaged to be married and his fiancé, Elaine, winds up in the middle of the family fracas. Amanda Martin plays Elaine with an innocent detachment in regard to the mayhem swirling around her, and Mortimer is having doubts about bringing her into his weird family.

For pure absurdity, there’s no better role than Teddy Brewster, played to perfection by Gregory Charette. He thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt, and his bugle-blowing charges up San Juan Hill (actually the stairway in the Brewster home) bring frequent visits by local police officers.

Two more quirky characters played by Mitchell Clyde Thomas and Sean Wallace add an extra dose of malevolence to this production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Thomas plays Jonathan, the black sheep of the Brewster clan with a particularly nefarious past. He’s accompanied by Dr. Einstein, played by Sean Wallace. They arrive unexpectedly, with a body in the truck of their car, planning to make the family residence a hide-out. The doctor is a plastic surgeon whose latest work on Jonathan made him a Boris Karloff look-alike.

There’s good work by several other CLT actors. Paul G. Caron plays Officer O’Hara, who is more interested in Mortimer’s critique of a play he has written than in the obvious illegalities in the household. Caron is more often performing musical director duties for CLT. He directed one of the “Arsensic and Old Lace” productions at CLT almost 20 years ago, in which Thomas played the O’Hara role.

Tyler Pulk and James McKinney also play officers of the law who have soft spots in their hearts for the kindly aunts. Brief supporting double roles are well played by George Sheckart and Henrik Strandskov.

Set design, construction and décor is very good. Three sections of the Brewster living room are highlighted alternately for various scenes of the play’s three acts. Credit for that work goes to Bill Hamilton, Phil Vampatella, Glenn Thibeault, Carole Hodgkin and Glynnis Nadel.

Remaining performances of “Arsenic and Old Lace” will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 10-12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. For information and tickets call 783-0958 or go online to www.laclt.com.

Shows are at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn.


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