Front Row Reviewers

Oct 6, 2023 | Reviews

The Pleasant Grove Players Serves Up a Brilliant Black Comedy with Arsenic and Old Lace

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Alayna Een

The Pleasant Grove Players welcome you in to celebrate spooky season with the strangest family in town: the Brewsters (just don’t tell the Addams).

Mortimer Brewster, an overworked drama critic in love with the local reverend’s daughter, thinks he knows all about his family’s peculiarities. That is, until he happens upon a corpse in the window seat and learns that his kind, elderly aunts have a bad habit of poisoning lonely widowers. Martha and Abby Brewster staunchly defend their “hobby,” leaving Mortimer to find a way to protect them and their would-be victims—a feat that becomes even more difficult with the untimely arrival of Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s estranged and sadistic brother. The strange people and agendas in the house attract the attention of the well-meaning but oblivious local police officers, who join in the midnight mayhem that somehow ends well for almost everyone. This crisp, self-aware play by Joseph Kesselring combines comedy with the macabre for a memorable—and enjoyable—theatrical experience.

Johanne Perry plays the sweet and romantic Martha Brewster, fawning over Mortimer and Elaine and responding to the rising drama in the house with indignant but polite “oh dear!”s. Jayne Luke is Abby, the more assertive of the Brewster sisters. The way she stands up to and scolds Johnathan while only coming up to his belly button—it’s the height of comedy. Perry and Luke, both strong performers on their own, are absolutely delightful together in the camaraderie of their morbid but guileless “hobby.” Their endless patience with the presidential Teddy Brewster (Wesley Clark) helps endear the audience to his quirks—which Clark fully commits to. Bully!

Matthew DelaFuente is a perfect Mortimer Brewster, the agitated problem solver and quick-talking voice of reason. (And I bet he’s glad I spent more time writing this review than his character would have.) Abby Fillmore is the beautiful and surprisingly spunky Elaine Harper, and her interactions with DelaFuente’s Mortimer are charming and really make you believe in and root for the couple.

Kirk Baxter plays the chilling villain Jonathan Brewster with just enough intensity to balance the comic absurdity without taking the turn toward horror—a difficult dance. His reluctant accomplice, Dr. Einstein (Dennis Purdie), is played by a veteran of the PG Players stage. He brings fresh trembles to the timid man.

Ben Wake (The Rev. Dr. Harper/Mr. Witherspoon) comedically crumbles under the weight of Teddy’s safari supplies and steals the show when he misses the bows. The stumbling officers Brophy (Diego Cordero) and Klein (Brayden Moss) have some great comedic moments, Brenna Brown’s Officer O’Hara reminds you of the person you avoid at Thanksgiving dinner, and Thomas Cornaby (Lieutenant Rooney/Mr. Gibbs) rounds out the squad.

Tina Fontana’s set is put together with pristine detail, from sun-faded paintings in silver frames to the crystal in the china cabinet, from the plush, floral settee to the all-important window seat. And her costume design is just as fine, with the aunts dressed in the titular lace and every character sporting the accoutrements of the time or their role. Howard and Kathryn Little are a dynamic duo of directors with a clear vision, also taking on several other roles in the crew.

A talented group of actors working with great source material is likely to put on a good show. But the icing—or arsenic—on the cake is in the details added by seasoned actors and savvy directors. The Pleasant Grove Players’ production of Arsenic and Old Lace is full of delightful add-ins and committed humor that bring this beloved black comedy to life. Just stay away from that elderberry wine!

A review by Front Row Reviewers

Pleasant Grove Players present Arsenic and Old Lace, by Joseph Kesselring
Pleasant Grove Library, 30 E Center St, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
Tickets: September 22-October 16, 2023; Monday, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 PM; matinee on Saturday, October 14, 3:00 PM.
Electronic playbill

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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