Repertory Philippines’ Arsenic and Old Lace starts out innocent enough: we are introduced to Abby and Martha Brewster, two elderly sisters who live in a quaint and cozy home. On the outside, they look like the sweetest of sisters, always looking out for other people and joining their local church’s charities. But what people don’t know is that they have a taste for death. What follows is a rip-roaring black comedy about madness, mayhem, and murder.
Arsenic and Old Lace was brought to life in 1939 by American playwright Joseph Kesselring. It opened on Broadway in 1941, playing more than a thousand performances that the New York Times called “so funny that none of us will ever forget it.” Just three years later, Frank Capra adapted it into a film, starring Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster, the sisters’ young nephew who discovers their secret. The film version was just as popular.
Now, modern Filipino audiences can join in on the fun and there’s plenty to love in Repertory’s adaptation!
is grounded by a solid cast, led by Joy Virata and Jay Valencia-Glorioso as Abby and Martha Brewster. Both actresses deliver their roles of childlike innocence that it becomes completely unlikely that they run this little modus. Equally funny are Nelsito Gomez as Mortimer, whose histrionics is the perfect foil to his aunts’ calm demeanor, and Apollo Abraham as Jonathan Brewster, the missing (and menacing) Brewster brother who decides to show up.
Rounding out this great cast are Barbara Jance as Mortimer’s fiancee Elaine Harper; Jeremy Domingo as Teddy Brewster; Robbie Guevara as Jonathan’s accomplice Dr. Einstein; Gabe Mercado as Lt. Rooney and the Reverend Dr. Harper; Steven Conde as Officer O’Hara, Mr. Gibbs, and Mr. Witherspoon; Dingdong Rosales as Officer Klein; and Luis Marcelo as Officer Brophy.
Like all Repertory Philippines productions, the set is a work of wonder. Denis Lagdameo created a beautiful Brewster home, filled with antiques and the tchotchke befitting the home of old ladies. Bonsai Cielo’s costume design was also a work of art.
Arsenic and Old Lace is an old story with an old setting (pre-war Brooklyn), but the material is hilarious and had me on the edge of my seat, either laughing or waiting what’s going to happen next. It’s the perfect escape with just a touch of reality. After all, what do we really know about the people around us?
Repertory Philippines’ Arsenic and Old Lace will be staged at Onstage Theater, at the Flooroort, Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi Street Makati City, from April 6 to 29. For inquiries, you may call Rep at 843-3570, and Ticketworld at 891-9999 or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph. For updates and show schedules, log on to www.repertoryphilippines.ph. You may also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.