Regent University’s performance of “Arsenic and Old Lace” certainly brought the laughs appropriate for an amusing dark comedy. I very much enjoyed the play’s humor and the fabulous actors. Still, certain elements were wanting.
The story’s plot centers around Mortimer Brewster, his two spinster aunts, and two brothers, Teddy and Jonathan. In the midst of unexpectedly proposing to his girlfriend (who is the stereotype of every black-sheep minister’s daughter), Mortimer discovers a corpse hidden in his home. This leads to a series of unbelievable chaos as he discovers the insanity that lies in the Brewster family. The audience certainly has a hearty dose of laughter in store for them as Mortimer tries to make everything right while avoiding an untimely death.
The entire play occurs in the Brewster house in the space of a single night, meaning there was very no change of setting. However, this kept the play grounded by maintaining a familiarity of space that helped balance out such a haywire plot.
The story line of “Arsenic” was extremely ridiculous, and the random plot and somewhat predictable characters helped add to the hilarity. Still, at times this randomness resulted in initial confusion, and the denseness of certain characters brought face-palm moments that detracted from my personal overall enjoyment of the story. Many characters, such as the policemen, the minister, and even “Doctor Einstein,” were a bit cliche, with only Einstein having any of the pleasurable twists one might have preferred to see.
The acting was generally on point throughout the performance. Aside from the few eye rolls induced by cliche actions, the actors portrayed their characters very well. Mortimer’s freak out moments were completely relatable, but intertwined with expressions, gestures, and quick reactions that made the audience roar with laughter. The two crazy aunts, Abby and Martha, played off of each other very well, as did Jonathan and his sidekick quack, Einstein. Teddy, Mortimer’s deranged brother and a Roosevelt-wannabe, provided a good many easy laughs for the viewers.
Certain elements of humor were rather crude, which might have been a bit unsettling for some of the audience members. Sexual and other coarse innuendos were scattered throughout the play, as well as a racial slur. Other negative elements included a surprising spattering of mild swear words.
However, despite the occasional moments, the performance truly was a masterful conglomeration of amusement and laughter.