Arsenic and Old Lace

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By Ken Begley


“Insanity runs in my family.  It practically gallops!”
Mortimer Brewster
“Arsenic and Old Lace” is being produced by the Central Kentucky Community Theatre at the Opera House in Springfield.  It’s a classic screwball comedy that ran on Broadway for three-and-a-half years and was later released as a 1944 Cary Grant film by the same title.  
This production of local adult performers will be showing Friday and Saturday (Feb. 10, 11, 17 and 18) at 7 p.m. and on Sunday (Feb. 12 and 19) at 2 p.m.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a hilarious play, perfect for people of all ages. The story is about Mortimer Brewster, the youngest of three brothers who were raised by two dear, but eccentric, spinster aunts, who have a nasty little habit of “putting poor souls” out of their misery with a little arsenic-laced elderberry wine.
Mortimer’s getting married to his fiancé, Elaine Harper, but is delayed on their honeymoon when he finds his two screwy aunts have been bumping off people in their house.  
The aunts then have his crazy brother, who thinks he’s a bugle blowing Teddy Roosevelt, bury the victims in the “Panama Canal” (cellar).  They even hold thoughtful funeral ceremonies for them.
 Mortimer goes from a nice, normal, newlywed to a nervous, neurotic mess as he tries to figure a way out of the predicament his well-meaning aunts have placed them all in.
But that’s not all.
You also throw in another brother, Jonathan Brewster, who is a psychopathic killer and his slightly intoxicated plastic surgeon cohort, Dr. Herman Einstein, and you’ll be laughing the entire way through this well-written play while wondering who isn’t crazy.
I talked to some of the actors in this play recently.
Dr. Atam Abbi, everyone knows Dr. Abbi from the ER at Spring View Hospital and the River of Life Church of Springfield, plays Dr. Herman Einstein.  
The first question that I had for Dr. Abbi was “How do you find the time to do this when you have such a mentally demanding job and a grueling schedule?”
I’ve interviewed a lot of local actors over the years, and I can tell you guys that working on a play is a very big commitment of work and time.  
These plays at the Opera House are not just slapped together by any means. So, to me, I couldn’t imagine Dr. Abbi wanting to do something like this mental exercise in what little free time that he has.
Dr. Abbi said you “must have a passion for it.”  
It turns out that he caught the acting bug in high school and it took. He enjoys the challenge of it all and believe me, it is a challenge. Dr. Abbi also noted that theater can be great for young people in school.
He said, “A lot is done in sports, but it’s great to have something small like this as an alternative for our youth.”
Debbie Williams plays Mortimer’s fiancé, Elaine Harper. Debbie is a newcomer to Springfield and hails from London, Kentucky. She said she’s always been a movie critic at heart and has been fascinated by acting forever.
Debbie took drama in high school and has been hooked on it ever since.  The Central Kentucky Community Theatre in Springfield is always looking for more local adults of all ages that want to participate in their numerous productions. So, Debbie decided to take a shot at it after coming here and appeared in her first play back in the fall.
Debbie is a mother and jokingly said, “I have a daughter, so if I’m going to have drama in my life, I might as well participate in theater.”
Another player in this production is high school junior Blake Blandford (son of Brian and Connie Blandford) of Marion County. He’s playing Police Officer O’Hara.  
Blake is a very athletic-looking young man with previous experience in the sports of swimming and cross country. He also took drama in high school.  
Blake heard about the Central Kentucky Community Theatre program for youth through friends, and wanted to try something different. This is his first play.
Finally, I talked with Marion County High School senior Alex Mattingly (son of Robert and Cindy Mattingly) who is playing Police Officer Brophy.  Alex has been a part of the Central Kentucky Community Theatre from the very beginning of it’s existence, playing every role imaginable, and is now in his last year.
He told me he was initially dragged into theater by his dad and then grew to love it.  
Alex’s favorite production was the musical “Les Misérables.” He said it was a play where everyone seemed to connect with their role.  
Alex is unsure of the future after high school, but is leaning toward eventually attending the University of Kentucky law school for a profession in the legal arena.
You know I’ve interviewed a lot of young people over the years and found each experience to be unique. Alex was no different.  
He’s a very serious student that seems to have a real inclination toward the arts in all its forms, from music to drawings to theater.
Even when Alex speaks it’s with a very thoughtful determination at accuracy toward what he’s trying to express. Each word seems to be carefully weighed.
You know, Alex, I can see you as a lawyer one day, and as lawyers frequently do, become a new breed of politician that our society so needs now more than ever before. One with a heart and soul for humanity, that actually says what he means and means what he says after a mature consideration of all its consequences.
Good luck, young man.
So, come on down and see these actors and the rest of the cast for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” but remember one piece of advice.
Avoid the elderberry wine if offered.
Otherwise, you might end up planted in the “Panama Canal.”