'Arsenic and Old Lace' delivers timeless humor

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Lawrence Community Theatre's production of the classic "Arsenic and Old Lace" is � well, a comedy to die for.

An old faithful in theater circles, the wacky murder story was written in 1941 by Joseph Kesselring, and has been staged in high schools, community theaters and professional venues ever since.

Still, even the most over-the-top-funny scripts can nosedive if the actors are mismatched to the characters. That's not the case here. Whoever picked this cast set the show's success in motion.

Thelma Taylor and Jane Malin are perfect as the sweetly innocent Brewster sisters, who are guilty of killing lonely, old men in the name of charity and then burying them in their cellar. Taylor and Malin's dead-pan reactions to abnormal happenings are flawless.

Lloyd Bolick excels as Mortimer, the sisters' nephew, who gets caught in the middle of his family's murdering. Bolick's role requires a sustained level of energy and succinct comic timing, and he meets the challenge. (The inside joke, of course, is that Mortimer is a drama critic who uses words instead of poison-laced elderberry wine or torture-inducing instruments to do in his victims.)

Don McIntyre plays Jonathan, Mortimer's gravelly voiced, psycho brother, who has escaped from prison with his sidekick plastic surgeon Dr. Einstein, played by Jeff Blair. McIntyre is as sinister and scary as Blair is slapstickish and bumbling.

Also of note is Christopher Price, who plays Officer O'Hara, an Irish policeman who's really a playwright looking to break into the theater industry. While Price's role is a secondary one, he uses his time on stage wisely and leaves a favorable impression.

"Arsenic and Old Lace," directed by Victoria Hartman, continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through April 28.