Two maiden aunts, three estranged brothers, four cops and thirteen dead bodies, all in one charming Victorian house. What else do you need for an evening of riotous comedy? Maui OnStage has brought the classic comedy to life once again. Directed by Steven Dascoulias, the show opened last Friday at the Historic Iao Theater and shows again this weekend and the next.
Even before the lights went up, I was drawn into the world of the play. The beautiful set, designed by Caro Walker, evoked the warmth, charm and hospitality of a Victorian living room, complete with gorgeous woodwork, textured blue walls, rugs, china, copper pots, flowery drapes and, of course, lace.
The genteel setting makes an ironic backdrop to the chaos that ensues. The characters entangle themselves in a convoluted game in which no one can agree on the rules, creating ample opportunity for the show to poke fun at everything from religion to law enforcement to the theater itself.
Barbara Sedano (left) and Joyce Romero are the lethal Brewster sisters.
The mayhem begins with the Brewster sisters, Abby (Barbara Sedano) and Martha (Joyce Romero), well-meaning but simple-minded spinsters who would (literally) kill for the chance to bring comfort and happiness. Sedano is wonderful as the anxious do-gooder, fluttering around the stage like a fussy hen. Romero's deadpan delivery is spot-on - even her most absurd pronouncements come with unwavering sincerity.
Vinnie Linares is Teddy Brewster, their addled nephew who's under the impression he's Teddy Roosevelt. His abrupt outbursts and ridiculous mannerisms make him fun to watch.
Teddy's brother Mortimer Brewster (Mark Bolden) is a smooth-talking theater critic who tries to clean up his relatives' mess but ends up caught in the middle of it. Bolden is strongest in the scenes with his fiancee, Elaine Harper (Hana Valle), where he displays a mix of self-centered carelessness and addictive charm. Valle, with her milky skin, bright eyes and dark shiny curls, is the innocent but eager ingenue.
* "Arsenic and Old Lace" plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 24. Tickets are $15, $18 and $40. Cafe o' Lei has $40 dinner packages available by calling 244-8680. For play tickets, call the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969 or visit www. mauionstage.com.
Jonathan Brewster (Paul Janes-Brown), the deranged brother of Mortimer and Teddy, is easily the most commanding, and menacing, presence onstage. His deathly pallor, towering height and slow, lurching movements evoke Frankenstein's monster. Norman Halip plays Jonathan's accomplice, the beleaguered plastic surgeon Dr. Einstein.
Eric Molina is great as Officer O'Hara, the policeman-playwright who energetically puts the cast to sleep with a play-by-play of his script. As Lieutenant Rooney, Greg Cotton commands the stage with dry sarcasm and perfect timing. Allen Cohen and Ikaika Ahina play the ineffectual Officers Brophy and Klein, Dascoulias is the scrupulous reverend, Dr. Harper, and the adaptable Charlie Dungans plays both Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Witherspoon, two victims of the Brewster sisters' "charity."
This impressive cast makes the most of a hilarious script. There were occasional gaps between lines and moments when the pace could have been quicker at the performance I saw, especially since the play is three acts long, but even so, there's a laugh a minute.
The production team consists of stage manager Andrea Finkelstein, lighting designer Joe Spangler, assistant stage manager and props manager Vicki Sparkman, master carpenter Michael Lewis, set designer and technical director Caro Walker, sound engineer Dawn Harper, costume designer Lynda Timm and production manager Dascoulias.
Part murder mystery, part social commentary and wholly ridiculous, "Arsenic and Old Lace" is a show to see and remember.
* Contact guest reviewer Mirabel Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org