When writer Joseph Kesselring first imagined the story of “Arsenic and Old Lace” he saw it more as a Gothic tale, based on a notorious case of the time where the owner of a boarding house poisoned guests to get their pensions. But, rumor has it, Broadway producers Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse convinced Kesselring to make it a comedy and so he did. The play is now a classic, community theaters everywhere still putting on productions, including SBCC’s Theater Group, who premiere the comedy this coming Wednesday.
In the play, the Brewster family is largely composed of homicidal maniacs except for the youngest, drama critic Mortimer Brewster (Jay Carlander), who comes home to marry the girl he loves, fend off police, and wonder how he’s related to everybody else. The heads of the house are two spinster aunts who murder lonely old men with elderberry wine laced with arsenic, helped by Mortimer’s brother (Christopher Lee Short) who is under the delusion he is Theodore Roosevelt and helps dig the graves for their victims. There’s a murderous older brother, too (John Bridle) who is living with a botched plastic surgery job to hide from the police.