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STAGE REVIEW TNT's 'Arsenic' is poisonously funny



Published: Sun, September 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Perfectly cast as the spinster sisters were Karen Horrell as Abby and Mary Ann Marton as Martha.

By GARRY L. CLARK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

NILES -- Abby and Martha Brewster are the salt of the earth. No, really. They're the sweetest, kindest, most generous women you'd ever want to meet. If you don't believe me, make a visit to "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Trumbull New Theatre.

Just be a bit careful, especially if they offer you a taste of their homemade elderberry wine. It has a secret ingredient that is so special, you'd find very soon that they'd killed you with their kindness.

OK, so they have one little flaw.

But the Brewster sisters are very selective in their choice of who joins the plethora of former boarders who have found eternal rest in their basement, which is now getting a bit crowded.

Among the criteria they insist on is that each of their "guests" be elderly, all alone in the world and, of course, religiously compatible before they can be chosen to be sent on to the cellar cemetery.

Nephews: No one would have been the wiser had it not been for two of the sisters' nephews, Mortimer Brewster, a somewhat manic theater critic who is visiting his elderly aunts to introduce them to his intended, Elaine Harper, and the rather shady Jonathan Brewster, whose appearance has dramatically changed (several times) in the intervening years since he last saw his aunts. He is also in the company of the seemingly nefarious Dr. Einstein, a surgeon whose trembling hands are a symptom of oncoming sobriety.

A third nephew, Teddy, shares their home, but is so involved in fancying himself to be Teddy Roosevelt that he is more than willing to help with burials of these poor victims of "yellow fever."

So the Brewster family tree seems to boast a bumper crop of nuts, making for a lively and comical evening of murder.

And on the TNT stage, with a superb set designed by the play's director, Paul Kimpel, the comedy is nonstop fun.

Cast: Perfectly cast as the sisters were Karen Horrell as Abby and Mary Ann Marton as Martha. Both gave their characters a charming air of sweet-little-old-lady innocence that never wavered.

Ryan M. Davis was superb as Mortimer, giving an authentic ring to his voice and manner with his incredulity and horror at his aunts' matter-of-fact confessions. Portraying his love interest, Elaine, was Samantha K. Kimpel, who also gave an excellent performance.

Jim Kilgore enlivened the part of Teddy Brewster, although he needs a little more practice with that bugle. Brian H. Lee was both sinister and winning in his portrayal of Dr. Einstein, and Todd Horrell was effectively frightening as the evil nephew, Jonathan.

Doing a fine job in supporting roles were Jim Vogt, Stephen Papalas, Carl Cohen, Ezekiel Reynolds, Terry Shears, Tim McGinley and Fred Fulton. Of special note were the wonderfully comic performances of Reynolds as Mr. Gibbs, a potential boarder, and Shears as Officer O'Hara, who fancies himself a playwright.

So if you get a chance, stop by TNT to visit the Brewsters. Just avoid the elderberry wine.




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