Aunt Martha and Aunt Abby consider it their charitable duty to poison lonely old men with spiked elderberry wine – and they’re among the saner members, comparatively speaking, of the outwardly respectable, stuffily WASPy Brewster clan. There’s also a nephew who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and is digging the Panama Canal in the family’s Brooklyn basement. Another – portrayed by Boris Karloff in the original Broadway version – is a homicidal maniac who has employed an alcoholic plastic surgeon to disguise his identity, with the result that he now bears a remarkable resemblance to Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. Bring a pair of sympathetic young lovers into the mix and you’ve got Arsenic and Old Lace, Joseph Kesselring’s macabre 1939 stage comedy inspired by a real-life serial killer who ran a nursing home in Connecticut in the 19-teens.
Most people know Arsenic and Old Lace from Frank Capra’s classic 1944 movie version starring Cary Grant, but it was also adapted for radio in 1952 as part of a series called Best Plays. That is the version that will be performed this Saturday at Ellenville’s Shadowland Theatre, as the 2015 edition of that venue’s “Terror at the Mike” series of Halloween dramatizations in the style of vintage broadcasts from the Golden Age of Radio. The series is an annual benefit for Shadowland, and all the actors donate their time for the rehearsals and performance.
Directed by Ray Faiola, the dark farce will be performed in its original fashion in front of microphones with both live and transcribed music and sound effects. In addition to the play, the actors and Foley artists will also perform live ‘40s-style commercial playlets for participating sponsors. The cast will include both professional and “civilian” performers, including several cast members from Shadowland’s 2015 main stage season.
The show begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 31, and admission only costs $15. What better Halloween entertainment for folks who have outgrown trick-or-treating? Get your tickets now by calling (845) 647-5511, online at www.shadowlandtheatre.org or in person at the Shadowland box office. The beautifully restored 1920s Art Deco vaudeville house is located at 157 Canal Street in Ellenville.