The main plot involves two spinster sisters who get a kick out of luring old men into their wine cellar and serving them elderberry wine spiked with deadly arsenic, strychnine and "just a pinch" of cyanide - but director Barbara Frederick swears the play is meant to be funny.
"Yes, this is a comedy," Frederick said. "It includes a mix and match of very colorful characters."
The play, written in 1939 and debuted on stage in 1941 by Joseph Kesselring, takes place in Brooklyn, in the home of the wine-making Brewster sisters, played by Marilyn Welch and Jan Yates, who live with their theater-critic nephew Mortimer, played by Ron Graham. Add to the mix two more nephews, Teddy, who dresses like and thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, played by Robert Sommers, and the evil Jonathan, played by Richard Stephens, and Frederick said there is the perfect recipe for gaining laughs.
Mortimer seems to be the only sane member of the group as he tries to juggle his murderous sisters, his lunatic brothers and the suspicious Brooklyn Police.
So revered was the play that it was turned into a 1944 film directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant as Mortimer.
In the Port Angeles Community Players' version, 12 cast members, including Sequim Gym owners Mitch and Kristin LaMoure, play the 14 whacky characters in "Arsenic and Old Lace," the only successful play out of 12 that Kesselring penned.
Frederick, who said she began her love of theater at Roosevelt Middle School in Port Angeles, has performed in 15 PA Players productions and directed 18.
Costumer Barb Comer and her crew of three found and made the 1940s costumes for the cast and Val and Kathy Balducci created the World War II-era set, which consists of the Brewster sisters' lavish Victorian home.
"I just love this cast and crew," Frederick said, adding that they have been rehearsing since early August. "This production is going to be wonderful."
"Arsenic and Old Lace" kicks off the PA Players 2008-09 play season; upcoming productions include "On Golden Pond," running Nov. 21-Dec. 2, "Celebration" running Feb. 20-March 8 and "Story Theatre" running May 1-17.
On the theater's Second Stage, "The War of the Worlds" runs Oct. 24-26, "Voices of Christmas" runs Dec. 12-14, "What a Family" runs March 13-15 and "Triple Play" runs May 22-24. More information can be found on www.PACommunityPlayers.com or by calling 452-6651.
"Arsenic and Old Lace"
Who: Port Angeles Community Players
What: "Arsenic and Old Lace" by Joseph Kesselring, directed by Barbara Frederick
Where: Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
Tickets: $10, available at Odyssey Bookshop in Port Angeles or at www.PACommunityPlayers.com
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