Dark comedy tickles funny bones at DDHS

Murder was never so amusing as in ‘ARSENIC AND OLD LACE’, the macabre situation comedy now playing at David Douglas High’s Theater …

Everyone in the area loves spinster aunts Abby Brewster and Martha Brewster (played by student actors Felisa Armitage and Jenny Tien), who are about to send some stew home to the wife of an ill friend.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The curtain went up for the first performance of the play, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, the evening of March 4 as the David Douglas High School (DDHS) Theater Department presented its winter play.

With the stage extended out into the auditorium, it moves the action of this spookily hilarious play closer to the audience, giving the performance an intimate feel, even in the large theater.

The spacious two-story set adds to an ambiance in which this story plays out.

“ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a high energy show, with a lot of physical comedy, making it a lot of fun,” remarked new DDHS theater instructor David Rosenbaum, the show’s director, as he watched a dress rehearsal.

About 50 Stagecraft students, under the direction of Theater Manager and instructor Molly Stowe, built a realistic two-story set on which the entire story plays out.

“There are 13 actors in this ensemble piece,” Rosenbaum told East Portland News. “All of our actors have substantial roles, because each character is over-the-top eccentric.”

Nephew Mortimer Brewster (actor Trevor Brummett) stands behind his beloved, Elaine Harper (Stephanie Vo), as they talk about love and matrimony.

Teddy Brewster (actor Korbin Chapman), thinking he’s President Teddy Roosevelt, is stopped by cousin Mortimer from making yet another “Charge up San Juan Hill”.

Martha and Abby express their annoyance that Mortimer has foiled another murder.

About the story
Eccentric characters abound! It starts with two murderous sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, played well by actors Felisa Armitage and Jenny Tien, who portray the seeming sweet and innocent ladies who rent out rooms to “sad, lonely bachelors” who meet a swift, untimely end by means of a mug of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide.

There, there’s the returned, wanted felon niece Joan Brewster (deliciously, wickedly portrayed by actor Hannah Kellebrew) and her personal cosmetic surgeon and partner-in-crime, Dr. Einstein (played by meek-yet-sinister actor ’Apicale Fouch).

When wanted felon and niece Joan Brewster (actor Hannah Kellebrew) “comes home”, bringing along Dr. Einstein (’Apicale Fouch), Abby and Martha have good reason to be worried.

At her evil best, Joan Brewster schemes to do away with some, and perhaps all, of her relatives.

Is Mortimer about to experience the “Melbourne method” of murder at the hands of Joan and Dr. Einstein?

Nephew Mortimer Brewster – portrayed by actor Trevor Brummett, who shows polished acting skills, as he provides a straight-faced, flustered and sometimes puzzled foil for the rest of his nutty family – is a drama critic. And he may, or may not, become engaged to neighbor Elaine Harper –portrayed by Stephanie Vo, who plays her character with verve and strength.

Is that Teddy Brewster, taking “another Yellow Fever victim” down to the “Panama Canal”?

Add to this the frequent charges up San Juan Hill by certifiably-mad nephew Teddy Brewster – played by actor Korbin Chapman with pokerfaced intensity – thinks he’s President Teddy Roosevelt, and helps his aunties by digging the Panama Canal project – down in their basement.

  • How much longer will Abby and Martha’s murderous scheme continue?
  • Will the bumbling cops discover Joan’s true identity?
  • Who will do away with which family member first?
  • Will Mortimer be able to escape his family of insane homicidal maniacs and marry Elaine?
  • And what is it that attracts so many bodies – dead and alive – to that window seat?

These questions and more are answered, as ARSENIC AND OLD LACE plays out in outer East Portland on the Horner Performing Arts Theater stage this weekend and next.

Perhaps all will be set right, when the murderous family is locked up – and committed to a mental institution, under the care of Dr. Witherspoon (played by Abby Moss), at the Happydale Sanitarium.

Tickets now on sale
Arsenic and Old Lace continues its run of evening performances on March 5 – and again on the weekend of March 10, 11, and 12. And, March 6, there’s a special Matinee Show at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $7 for students and seniors and $10 for the general public.

The Box Office is now open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3:00 until 5:30 p.m. on school days, and tickets will be available (if not sold out; a real possibility) an hour before show time. Visit the Box Office, located in the Horner Auditorium, located at 1400 SE 130th Avenue, between SE Stark and Division streets to purchase tickets.

Call now to reserve seats: (503) 261-8270; even easier, reserve online at their official Internet Ticket Reservation Page: CLICK HERE.

It’s a grand curtain call for the cast of Arsenic and Old Lace.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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