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Community Theatre rocks the house with ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’


“Arsenic and Old Lace” hasn’t lost a thing.

Nearly 80 years after it premiered on Broadway and was made into a feature film, the dark comedy is still a timeless classic, as Las Cruces Community Theatre so wonderfully demonstrates with its own production.

A solid cast, an outstanding crew, excellent costumes and a beautiful set make for a delightful return to all the craziness at the Brewster house.

You may already know the story, and you’re certainly familiar with the name. Two spinster sisters, Abby (Dawn Duncan) and Martha (Virginia Ostendorf) Brewster have an unusual hobby: inviting lonely old men in and serving them homemade elderberry wine; Abby and Martha like to touch it up with arsenic, strychnine and "just a pinch" of cyanide.

Nephew and fellow housemate Teddy Brewster (James Boberg), who thinks he’s president Theodore Roosevelt,  makes regular trips to dig locks for the Panama Canal  (conveniently located in the Brewster cellar),  which his aunts have convinced him is the perfect place to bury their visitors, whom he believes keep dying of yellow fever.

Teddy’s brother, Mortimer (Luz Resendez), doesn’t share love for homicide, but he’s terrified that it might be catching. Another nephew, Jonathan (Nathan Harper), shows up with his plastic surgeon and accomplice, Dr. Einstein (Veronica Bissel), needing a place to hide out because of his own string of murders across several states and countries. 

About the only thing he and the aunts agree on is that someone else needs to die, so they can break the tie in their respective number of kills. Add in Mortimer’s charming and marriage-minded girlfriend, Elaine (Stephanie Beauregard), four bumbling cops (Victor Roberts [who also plays a minister], Mike Cruz, Adolfo Enriquez and Mario Nuñez), a lucky escapee and a sanitarium superintendent (both played by Doug Abbott) and you’ve got a wonderful show that you will truly enjoy at LCCT, 313 N. Main St. downtown.

The play is directed by Darin Robert Cabot, most ably served by scenic and costume designer Melissa Muñoz, lighting designer Jessie Montoya Ortega, sound designer Zane Chaffee and stage manager Roxi Garcia. Major kudos must go to Muñoz, Doug Roby and Lennie Brown for this show’s incredible set and props. (The “bodies” are particularly fabulous.)

You really can (almost) believe that Abby and Martha are just two sweet old ladies who have found a fun way to entertain themselves. They have rules, after all; they would never tell a fib, for example, or bury a Methodist next to a foreigner.

Duncan and Ostendorf own their roles as Abby and Martha, the matriarchs of murder in this hilarious tale of escapism originally written to drown out the terrible reality of World War II.

Resendez makes you feel for Mortimer, struggling with his own sanity among all the craziness around him. Boberg is a loud and loveable Teddy Roosevelt, Harper is truly scary as the nasty and nefarious nephew, Bissel is marvelously mysterious as the crafty and creepy Dr. Einstein, Beauregard is a beautiful and determined bride to be.

Individually and collectively, the script-writing Cruz and the cookie-eating Enriquez and Nuñez make the Keystone Cops look like the FBI; and Roberts and Abbott shine in their dual roles.

Remaining “Arsenic and Old Lace” performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 7-8 and 14-15; and 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 9 and 16 at LCCT, 313 N. Main St. downtown.

Ticket are $17 for adults, $14 for seniors, students and military, $10 for groups of 10 or more and for children under age 12. Tickets are available at lcctnm.org and at the door before each performance. For more information, call LCCT at 575-523-1200. Visit www.lcctnm.org.