'Arsenic' Offers Lively Challenge

Key's Stage Production Opens This Weekend

November 20, 1991|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

UNIONTOWN — Hidden secrets, questionable sanity and criminal behavior will create ironic comedy when Francis Scott Key High School presents "Arsenic and Old Lace" this weekend.

"I chose 'Arsenic and Old Lace' because it has a lot of elements," director Suzanne Summit said. "It mixes comedy with the macabre.

"This is an old standard play, and it offers a good acting experience for the kids," added Summit, who has taught math at Key for 24 years and began working with drama productions there about 15 years ago.

"The chorus teacher was pregnant and needed help," said Summit."I worked on the sidelines with the musical productions over the years, and this is the second year I have directed a fall production."

Set in the 1940s, "Arsenic and Old Lace" is the story of two elderly aunts who appear to be living a quiet traditional, Victorian lifestyle. But they share a gruesome secret.

Hidden in the basement of their home are the bodies of old men they have poisoned.

The aunts find no fault with their crimes because they feel they are doing these men without families a service.

"My character is fun to play," said Sheri Bickerton, a 16-year-old junior who plays Aunt Martha. "Sheis so very sweet, but there is this sinister side to her that she finds acceptable."

Indeed, the aunts take certain matters into theirown hands. And the methods they use are not based on ethics.

Lending to the unusual antics of the aunts is Teddy, their crazy live-in nephew.

Teddy, played by senior Virgil Crain, not only thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, but he unwittingly aids his aunts in their illegalpursuits.

Convinced that he is digging the Panama Canal in the base

ment of their home, Teddy is actually helping his aunts hide their victims.

"Teddy is an interesting character to play because you not only portray a character, but a character who thinks he is someone else," said Cain, 17.

"It's a stretch, because he has no touchwith reality. I am actually playing two characters instead of one."

While Teddy and his aunts offer personalities with a twist, nephewMortimer brings some sense of normalcy to the household.

"Mortimer is the straight man in the play," said senior John Purvis, 17, who plays the role in his fifth school production. "He is the most sane of the bunch.

"He is a great character who is not easy to play," Purvis added. "He is receptive, which gives me the chance to react to avariety of situations."

Eventually, the unknowing Mortimer accidentally unveils the aunts' deep dark secrets.

Summit said she thinks the play will go over well.

"The students are into their parts, they are natural with their roles," she said. "I think the audience will enjoy the fact that the play moves along nicely and that the dialogue is funny."

Crain said he thinks the play will be a big success.

"The actors we have working on the stage are very comedic," he said. "We have the right chemistry."

Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Francis Scott Key gym. Tickets are $3 for adults,$2 for students and senior citizens. Information: 848-2422.

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