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Arsenic and Old Lace

by Joseph Kesselring

May 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 1986

Plank Road School

Arsenic and Old Lace opens in the living room of the Brewster home, inhabited by two spinster aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster, and their nephew, Teddy. Rev. Dr. Harper is chatting with Abby about her other nephew, Mortimer, who in love with the reverendís daughter, Elaine. Soon joining the conversation are two friendly police officers, Brophy and Klein, who have come by (as they often do) to pick up a box for charity from the kindly Brewster sisters. Theodore, who is rather crazy but harmless, thinks he is Theodore Roosevelt and charges up the stairs to retrieve the box.


The reverend and the policemen leave, only to be replaced by Mortimer, who announces to his aunts that he intends to marry Elaine, whom he is taking to a play that evening.  However, the happy family starts to unravel when Mortimer lifts the lid to the window seat and discovers a dead body within. He immediately assumes that Teddy has killed the man. However, Abby and Martha tell Mortimer that it was they who poisoned the man with their homemade elderberry wineóand that he is the eleventh (or twelfth, depending on how you count) gentleman they have shared their wine with. The sisters explain that these are charitable acts: They befriend lonely older gentlemen who do not have much to live for and then kill them with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They continue that Mortimer should not worry because Teddy is down in the cellar digging what he believes is the Panama Canal, but is in reality the latest grave.


Just then Elaine arrives and an exited and worried Mortimer tells her they are not going to the theatre after all. After a brief quarrel, Elaine leaves.  About this time, Mortimer and Teddy's brother, Jonathan, shows up. Jonathan, a true maniacal criminal, is accompanied by Dr. Einstein, a plastic surgeon of doubtful character. Dr. Einstein has changed Jonathan so that he looks like Boris Karloff, the horror film star.


Teddy invites Einstein to join him in the cellar, where he is supposedly digging the Panama Canal. Einstein quickly returns and confides to Jonathan that there is a hole large enough to bury Mr. Spenalzo (a man Jonathan recently killed) after everyone goes to bed. Once the lights are out and everyone is supposedly asleep, Teddy goes to the window seat to get Mr. Hoskins, and Jonathan and Einstein go to their car to get Mr. Spenalzo, both planning on filling the hole in the cellar.


Thus begins several hilarious scenes of lights blinking on and off, of bodies being moved from the window seat to the cellar to the car outside, and of accusations and threats back and forth.  Because of the commotion at the house, Officer O'Hara stops by to make sure all is well. When he is convinced that everything is alright, he shifts topics and corners Mortimer in a discussion of a play he is writing.


Just then, Lieutenant Rooney bursts in and recognizes Jonathan as an escapee from a prison for the criminally insane. Jonathan tells the officers about the bodies in the cellar, but they don't believe him and take him off to prison. Einstein gets away, and Theodore is certified insane and taken to the Happy Dale Sanitarium.  Trying to protect society without sending his aunts to prison, Mortimer ecstatically agrees when his aunts insist on going to Happy Dale with their nephew. The aunts then kindly inform Mortimer that he is actually not a member of the Brewster family. He was an illegitimate child and thus can marry Elaine without fear of passing the Brewster insanity on to his children. Mortimer happily departs, but before the women leave their house, they offer a drink to the head of Happy Dale, Mr. Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a lonely older gentleman, and he gladly accepts a glass of the spiked elderberry wine. . . .


Show Program









Production Staff


Tom Zuehlke

Stage Manager

Mary Carroll

Set Designer

Margaret Banister

Chris Otto

Lighting Designer

Bob Kafka

Prop Crew

Judy Schoenfeld

Costume Crew

Byrll Hoelke

House Manager

Jeff Hussinger



Arlene Hermann

Pete Kachian

Donna Kay Kohls

Lisa Meister

Hair Stylist

Vicki Medrow


Frank Sander


Deb Pipkorn



Abby Brewer

Jane Preston


Reverand Dr. Harper

Robert Brooks


Teddy Brewster

Mike Dittmann


Officer Brophy

Steven Balzer


Officer Klein

Victor White


Martha Brewster

Trace Gauger


Elaine Harper

Lauri Arnold


Mortimer Brewster

Matthew Brown


Mr. Gibbs

Jim Gilliamsen


Jonathan Brewster

Patrick Murry


Dr. Einstein

Jim Kollenbroich


Officer O'Hara

Dan Wilson


Lieutenant Rooney

David Subat


Mr. Witherspoon

Tom Kohls


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