`Arsenic' lively, with enthusiasm


November 17, 2006|By Kelly Kreft | Kelly Kreft,special to the sun

If you had walked into the auditorium of Hammond High School last weekend, you might have thought you were in your grandmother's house - until you saw the dead old men.

With Abby and Martha Brewster serving up poisoned wine, their nephew, Teddy, digging the Panama Canal in the cellar, and the corpse in the window seat, this wasn't over the river and through the woods, it was Arsenic and Old Lace.

Set in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1941, Joseph Kesselring's Arsenic and Old Lace spans two days in the home of Abby and Martha Brewster (Kelsey Girard and Shannon Nabors).

The Brewster family is undoubtedly a little off kilter - nephew Teddy (Josh Sullivan) is convinced that he is Teddy Roosevelt - but seem harmless enough. That is, until Mortimer (Dustin Morris), another nephew of the Brewster sisters, stumbles on a body in the living room and discovers that his sweet old aunts have been killing lonely old men.

Abby and Martha are no cold-blooded killers, rather, charitable women devoted to putting poor souls out of their misery.

In contrast to the sisters is Jonathan (Sean Langan), a third nephew and a true villain. All of the Brewsters' quirks are showcased as Mortimer tries to cover up his aunts' secret, Jonathan tries to hide evidence of his own and Teddy's loud antics lead the police to the Brewster home of mayhem.

Hammond High School's enthusiastic production conveyed how much fun a morbid comedy can be.

Morris brought life to the stage as Mortimer. With a grasp of physical comedy and dynamic expressions, Morris made the most of the absurdity of finding a body at the hands of two soft-spoken old ladies.

Girard and Nabors never missed a beat as Abby and Martha Brewster. They played up the humor of their situation with a nonchalance and ease befitting a pair who kill out of sympathy. Yet they never lacked energy.

His voice dripping with malevolence, Langan's Jonathan commanded the stage. His dry chuckle and icy stare made it easy to believe he was a vicious killer.

Ayma Rouhani, as Elaine Harper, Mortimer's fiancee, provided a refreshing contrast to Jonathan's villainous ways. Rouhani's portrayal of youthful innocence and chemistry was believable, even as Elaine was being pushed away in Mortimer's attempts to conceal his aunts' secrets.

The lighting by Christine Wirth was solid and without fail. Every time a switch was flicked, the lights dimmed, and the evenings were lighted by a soft blue glow from the window. Candles, or a small, well-placed lamp, made easily visible scenes that took place in the dark.

Sound effects by Jennifer Marker were skillfully incorporated into the production, with doorbells and phones ringing on cue. There were no problems with microphones and no muffling of the sound, making the show move smoothly and without incident.

Hammond High's production was lively, exciting and humorous.

Kelly Kreft, a student at Catonsville High School, reviewed Arsenic and Old Lace for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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