Review: Dark show splattered with comedy

DARK COMEDY: Erin Callanan as Abby Brewster, Lance McBride as Mortimer Brewster and Karen Hallsworth as Martha Brewster in the Canterbury Repertory Theatre's killer comedy of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic and Old Lace

Produced by Canterbury Repertory Theatre

Written by Joseph Kesselring

Reviewed by Georgia O’Connor-Harding

Most people have a black sheep in their family.

But a whole flock of bizarre individuals fall under the spotlight in the Canterbury Repertory Theatre’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Terrifying pass-times of murder, home-surgery and poisonous elderberry wine executed by members of the Brewster family are uncovered in this dark comedy.

Yet inspite of the fact the show was first written in 1939, a large talented cast has accomplished a slick, subtly witty performance.

The show’s plot themes around theatre critic Mortimer Brewster, played by Lance McBride, who’s happy life is turned upside down when he learns his sweet aunties have been poisoning lonely old men for years.

Mortimer’s entire family is every bit wild with one of his brothers believing he is President Theodore Roosevelt while his other is wanted for murder.

In fact, Mortimer may be the odd one out in his family as he is the only one who isn’t involved in deadly crimes.

His aunties – Abby and Martha Brewster played by Erin Callanan and Karen Hallsworth are by far the stars of the show.

Their performances are absolutely endearing – they come across as the sweetest, delightful most enchanting old ladies you could ever imagine.

The most hilarious part is these two ladies believe they are entitled to their own hobbies  – killing off old men – and they are in fact helping them by giving them a drink of poisonous elderberry wine sending them off to a far happier place.

They even hold funeral services for each unfortunate man.

CRAZY: The cast of the Canterbury Repertory Theatre’s new production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

While the show may not delve into life-changing topics, it shows blood is thicker than water with the lengths Mortimer goes to protect his aunties from going to jail.

It was also excellent to watch Graeme Randle, who played the dark, dangerous Jonathan Brewster.

His very presence sent chills through the room and his nasty demeanour to his two aunties made him instantly dislikeable – he was easily the character the audience loved to hate.

In a terrifying turn of events Jonathan nearly performs his torturous home surgery on Mortimer leaving the audience on the edge of their seats.

While the show delves into dark themes, the comedic elements is what gave it the full package – without the humour it could have been a completely different performance to watch.

While it was thoroughly enjoyable making me laugh out loud at times, I felt three acts was perhaps slightly too long to stage an otherwise fast-paced performance.

Arsenic and Old Lace runs at Elmwood Auditorium until Saturday. To book tickets go to