The Chatham Community Players will perform eight shows of “Arsenic and Old Lace” in the Sweet Bee Theater. The Halloween comedy centers around one sane man’s shaky aim to comprehend and keep his murderously funny family under control one farciful evening. The show will take place from October 26-November 3 – with Saturday performances at 4pm and 7pm, and Sunday performances at 2pm and 6pm. Arsenic and Old Lace is written by American playwright Joseph Kesselring.
The play is a farcical black comedy revolving around the Brewster family, descended from the Mayflower settlers, but now composed of insane homicidal maniacs. The hero, Mortimer Brewster, is a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and local police in Brooklyn, New York, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves, Elaine Harper, who lives next door and is the daughter of the local minister.
His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home (which then serve as graves for the aunts’ victims; he thinks that they died of yellow fever); and a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein (a character based on real-life gangland surgeon Joseph Moran) to conceal his identity, and now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff (a self-referential joke, as the part was originally played on Broadway by Karloff).