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Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Arsenic and Old Lace" slated Feb. 8-10 in Mt. Vernon

Friday, February 1, 2013

Things are seldom as they seem in "Arsenic and Old Lace." Above, Elaine, played by Kirstin Racicot, of Monett, and drama critic Mortimer Brewster, played by Ethan Swan, prepare for a quiet night at the theater, which is far from how their evening goes and mayhem ensues in the Rebel's Bluff Troupe production in Mt. Vernon. [Photo by Steve Snyder]
The Rebel's Bluff theater troupe, of Mt. Vernon, will present the classic murder-mystery play "Arsenic and Old Lace" on Feb. 8, 9 and 10 at the Mt. Vernon Arts and Recreation Center (The Marc), located at 822 W. Mt. Vernon Blvd. on the business loop.

Polly McCrillis and Rich Mach, of rural Pierce City, are directing the production. Polly was previously recruited to perform in the Rebel's Bluff production of "Bullfrogs Sing Opera."

"We've done a lot of theater together," Polly said. "This is the first time we've co-directed a play. We bounce ideas off each other."

Polly runs the Bookmarks bookstore in Pierce City and Rich, who has appeared as Mortimer Brewster and Officer Brophy in "Arsenic," is a medical software consultant. The couple discovered Rebel's Bluff by walking in on auditions for "Bullfrogs" just to say hello. They have since attended other productions of the company. Lana Moore, who has directed for Rebel's Bluff, is a fan of Polly's books.

The pair were asked to direct "Arsenic" for Rebel's Bluff. Polly said Rich only agreed if she would collaborate with him.

"It's a crazy classic," Polly said. "We haven't changed anything in the script, even the politically incorrect stuff."

The zanies are loose in "Arsenic and Old Lace." Teddy Brewster, played by Adam Rogers in the Rebel's Bluff production, convinced that he is Teddy Roosevelt, discusses the "yellow fever" victims that he plans to bury in the Panama Canal, in the basement, with his homicidal aunts, Martha and Abby, played by Emily Owens and Lana Moore. [Photo by Steve Snyder]
The play revolves around the homicidal Brewster sisters who are killing elderly men with their arsenic-laced tea. Their daffy nephew, Teddy, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, is played by Adam Rogers. Mortimer Brewster, a respected critic, gradually comes to understand his family is far from benign and begins to unravel their game.

The three-act play has a cast of 10, with two people each playing two parts.

"Everything builds up to a frantic pace," Polly said. "There are lots of lines that have to interlock very quickly."

Polly's approach is to stage the play in 1941 as a period piece, bringing out styles from the period. For example, Ethan Swan, who plays Mortimer Brewster, has a "long-legged young Jimmy Stewart" manner.

"Both Rich and I ask the actors, 'Why do you think you said that?' We'd rather they figure it out than tell them. It's too easy to memorize lines and do the action without knowing why."

Polly said the loopiness of the play is typical of the period. The stage directions are also very exacting, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Polly and Rich have used the detailed reaction to produce an authentic production. All the scenes using the window seat as a hiding place ring with comedy.

While it would be easy to mimic the 1944 film starring Cary Grant, the directors told the actors to avoid the film, develop their own ideas

"Murder, mayhem and a lot of laughs" is how Polly characterized the production.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" will be presented at 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9 and at 3 p.m. on Feb. 10. A dinner will be offered an hour before the show for those who want to enjoy a dinner theater format. Tickets for the show can be reserved in advance at mvrs99@centurylink.net. and are are available at the door on the day of the performance.

For more information, write via-e-mail to Rebels Bluff at mvrs99@centurylink.net.

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