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Arsenic and Old Lace amuses audiences with dark humor

By: Frankie Brock, Fall Editor and Reporter

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Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1939 play by Joseph Kesselring, a dark comedy, and parody of murder mysteries. The show invigorated the Colonia High auditorium during a three-night theatrical performance on November 17, 18, and 19.

Arsenic and Old Lace had fans busting a gut from start to finish. The students had an amazing time portraying the comical characters and the audience enjoyed their performance even more.


Theatre critic Mortimer Brewster doesn’t realize it, but he is the most normal member of his family. He has two sweet old aunts, Abby and Martha, who like serving homemade wine to lonely old men… and sometimes they add just a drop of deadly arsenic in it.

As the show opens, Mortimer surprises his aunts with promises of wedding bells to the demanding and instant Elaine. Upon the excitement, Mortimer accidentally uncovers the dark secret of the Brewster insanity. He stumbles upon the body of a lonely old man stuffed into the Brewster window seat.

As the crazy plot progresses Mortimer’s older brother Johnathan is introduced. He and his Companion Dr. Einstien travel the world leaving a trail of victims in each city.  Suddenly Jonathan and his sweet aunts are in a head to head competition, deadlocked at 12 murders each. The opposing teams take drastic measures to kill just one more victim before the curtains close.

Mortimer believes all the bad things the family does are directly related to hereditary madness. He fears he is just as crazy and dangerous as the rest of his wacky family. Mortimer makes it his job to try to keep the Brewster clan out of trouble even as “Yellow Fever victims” start piling up in the basement.

The cops ultimately save the day, arresting Johnathan and sending all but one Brewster to Sunnydale hospital for the mentally ill. Mortimer discovers his adoption and no longer fears for his sanity. Relieved he heads to Elaine’s house for breakfast after the action-packed night he just experienced.

The final scene leaves the audience speechless. Martha and Abby succeed in beating Johnanthin. As the lights dim the sweat elderly women commit the 13th and final murder.


For the previous two years, Colonia has put on a directors showcase as its fall production. This year Arsenic and Old Lace proved to be an excellent way to shake things up. The show brought fans to tears of joy with its beautiful set, witty one-liners, and perfect comedic timing.

The Show Arsenic and Old Lace were previously performed at Colonia High in 1967, the first-ever performance put on in the Colonia Auditorium. This year is the 50th anniversary it was the perfect timing. Director of this years show Mrs. Montolvo spoke of the show very highly.

“It is crazy that I picked this show this year, almost fate that I picked it on the 50th anniversary. I did know the history of the show until after I picked it and

The only possible critique of the show was its relatability to the audience. Many of the jokes referenced pop culture of the 1940s. The young audience missed the humor of the jokes. But the fans still found themselves laughing due to the hysterical faces made by actors Ryan Cambell, Amanda Kavaja, and Anthony Picininni.

Character Review

The Brewster Aunts portrayed by Sarah Gregory (Abby) and Amanda Kavaja (Martha) displayed every characteristic of a sweet old lady. Their performance was promising. The audience believed they were two insane old women obsessed with elderberry wine. The pair acted innocent, and trustworthy even though they were killing old men, they even justified their actions. The audience found them comical and enjoyed their shenanigans.

Ryan Cambell portrayed Mortimer in the Colonia High adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace. He did a fantastic job, maintaining his characters while delivering witty one-liners and making faces that had the audience cracking up. Cambell slowly lost it as he realized his family was insane. He showed his emotions through hysterical scenes where he did nothing but silently freak out. His animation included pointing, pacing, and screaming without sound in utter disbelief.

Johnathan (Kurt Jackson) and Einstein (Marcus ) were the epitomai of evil villains. Kurt being the leader and Marcus the doting henchmen. The worked well together and made a rather frightening team. The audience was truly unsettled by the acting of the pair.

Anthony Piccini (Teddy Brewster) stole the show, brightening the stage with his lively and jovial portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt. He only occupied the stage for brief scenes. But it was clear when Picininni was present laughter roared the loudest.

Elaine brought to life by Kelly Branco, was everything you’d imagine a Brooklyn girl to be. She was bossy, instant, and knew what she wanted. She made sure the audience heard her opinion and never backed down. In the end, she happily settled down with Mortimer, Branco did a great job.

Audience Feedback

“The show is one I’ve heard mentioned before being a theater/film fan but have never actually seen in any form. I really enjoyed it! Our theater department consistently puts together great shows, but I thought our cast was very adept at the comedic dialogue. I thought my favorite part was the total mastery of tone in the cast and direction. Dark comedy can be tricky to manage, but the cast pulled it off perfectly” proclaimed Mr. Brian Long, English teacher.

“My wife and I saw Arsenic and Old Lace on opening night and we absolutely loved the show! We found ourselves laughing almost the entire time and truly enjoyed the play from start to end.  The students did a great job.  Arsenic and Old Lace was one of my favorite productions that I’ve seen at CHS!” stated Mr. Devin Chandler, Math teacher.

“The show received a standing ovation for the believable acting and great comedy. I was on the edge of my seat constantly wanting to know what would happen next,” explained DeAndre Oglesby.

“The show was fantastic! I can’t wait until I come to Colonia High School. It would be amazing to be involved in the theater program, especially because of this funny show. I loved that I got to have a taste of the Elderberry wine (grape juice). It was really fun and I felt like I was apart of the play! Great job Everyone!” noted Shannon Kavaja.

“My family loves coming to see the Colonia High shows. This is the first fall play I have been able to attend, I usually go to the spring musical. I enjoyed the plot, and I thought the students did an amazing job. You could tell they worked hard and they truly deserved the standing ovation they received,” proclaimed Caren Calafiore-Brock.

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About the Contributor
Frankie Brock, Editor in Chief

Frankie Brock is a 17  year old Senior at Colonia High School. She is the Senior Class Presidents and loves getting involved in all Colonia High School...

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Arsenic and Old Lace amuses audiences with dark humor