The Brewster family of “Arsenic & Old Lace” keeps everyone in stitches as they create mayhem on the Amish Acres Round Barn stage in Nappanee.
Mortimer (Joe Ford) is a drama critic for the local newspaper in Brooklyn. He’s in love with the “girl next door,” Elaine Harper (Angie Fisher), whose father is a minister. He later tries to get out of the engagement because he feels like he is going insane.
Mortimer pays a visit to his aunts, Martha (Rita Kurtz) and Abby (Dr. Pamela Chabora). The visit turns out to be unusual. His brother, Teddy (Don Hart), thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and he often leads the charge up San Juan Hill. The word “Charge” seems to be at the top of his vocabulary list.
Both Ford and Fisher turn in perfect performances as he tries to figure out how to help his aunts and brother and she tries to figure out his change of heart. Likewise, Kurtz and Chabora make the perfect aunts as both add their own touch of comedy as the aunts who are always thinking of others, even if what they are doing is against the law.
Hart brings Teddy Roosevelt to life as he keeps the audience in stitches.
When Mortimer finds a body in the window seat he blames it on Teddy but his aunts confess they are guilty of offering lonely, old bachelors elderberry wine laced with poisons. There are bodies buried in the basement, too. Teddy thinks he’s digging the Panama Canal and he is burying the victims of yellow fever.
Enter brother Jonathan (Rory Dunn) with alcoholic Dr. Herman Einstein (Timothy Leonard). Jonathan is a murderer with his last victim being someone in South Bend. He is running from the police. He needs a place to hide a body. How about the basement? The aunts object.
Dunn and Leonard add to the mayhem of the evening. Both are experienced actors and their superior ability shows.
Mortimer sees that both Teddy and Jonathan and his aunts are mentally unbalanced and wonders if that will happen to him, too, at some point.
There is a plot to kill Mortimer. However, it’s spoiled when Officer O’Hara (Evan Jackson) stops by to tell Mortimer about the play he is writing. It takes most of the evening and Officers Brophy (Trent Loggins) and Klein (Ramaad Morris) arrive to see what’s going on. Close on their heels is the play’s director, Matthew Wilver, who gets into the act as Lt. Rooney.
It seems Teddy has blown his horn as he charges up San Juan Hill once too often. Finally, Jonathan is arrested. He will be sent back to South Bend. He tries to convince the police there are 13 bodies in the basement. They, however, don’t believe him and refuse to go down there.
In addition, Morris shows up as Mr. Gibbs, an older man who wants to rent a room. The sisters offer him some of their famous wine but Mortimer arrives and shows him the door. Jackson, Loggins, Morris and Scott all add their own superior acting abilities to the production.
Enter Mr. Witherspoon (Shelby Tyler Nichols), who doubles as Elaine’s father, Rev. Dr. Harper, at the beginning of the production. Mr. Witherspoon is the head of the sanitarium where Teddy is to be taken but the aunts say he can’t go unless they can go, too. Mortimer agrees this would be good and proceeds to sign the necessary papers.
That done, a few more lose ends are tied up and Mortimer and Elaine leave. What happens next is an unusual way to end the show but the audience loved it. Nichols is great in both rolls and if I hadn’t had a program I wouldn’t have realized he was cast as both Witherspoon and Harper.
What will Mortimer’s fate be. Will he and Elaine ever get the honeymoon they have planned? What happens to Jonathan? What about the aunts and brother Teddy? It’s a great show. An entertaining night of comedy. Go see it, you will be glad you did.
For tickets call 800-800-4942 ext. 2 or on line at www.amishacres.com. But hurry, this production has a short run as the theatre staff readies for the Christmas special, “The Wizard of Oz,” opening Nov. 15.