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Gerald Carpenter: SBCC Theatre Opens Season with ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

The SBCC Theatre Group's season is apparently synchronized with the fiscal year, since it is offering its first show of 2014-15 in July.

It is opening with a new production of Joseph Kesselring's mortal comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by Katie Laris and starring John Brindle, Jay Carlander, Samantha Eve, Ed Lee, Linda MacNeal, Edward K. Romine, Donal Ross, Matt Schuster, Christopher Short, Leslie Ann Story, Brad Strickland, Allan Stewart-Oaten, Jerry Vassallo and Tim Whitcomb.

The play opened Wednesday and runs through July 26 in the renewed Garvin Theatre.

Arsenic and Old Lace is a very strange variant of the back-stage comedy in that its principal — and possibly only sane — character, Mortimer Brewster, is a drama critic, scion of a family that arrived in America aboard the Mayflower, and whose other living descendents are all, each in their own way, as mad as a who shop full of hatters.

Mortimer's brother Teddy, for instance, believing that he is Theodore Roosevelt, spends most of his time in the basement of the family home, digging what he believes is the Panama Canal. His other brother, Jonathan, is a murderous international criminal, hiding out at the above-mentioned home while he figures out what to do about the botched plastic surgery that made him into a replica of Boris Karloff.

Then there are Mortimer’s aunts, Martha and Abby, who look the personification of the phrase “sweet old ladies,” but who pass the years of their dotage poisoning their gentlemen callers and burying their bodies in Teddy’s “Panama Canal.”

Such, at any rate, is the situation on the ground when Mortimer returns to the family homestead to announce his impending marriage (he has been understandably reluctant to roll the genetic dice fate has handed him, but he has fallen in love, so what can he do?).

I can’t say that Arsenic and Old Lace is the funniest play ever written; all I can say is that there are none funnier and damned few that are anywhere near as funny. Nor, oddly, has it dated in any significant degree: every revival seems to set records for the longevity of its run. I suppose, if I must address the issue of its being 65 years old, I could suggest that it is even more “relevant” — or, at lease, more plausible — now than when it first took the stage.

Arsenic and Old Lace will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets for Thursday evenings and Sunday matinees are $22 for general admission, $17 for seniors and $12 for students; for Friday and Saturday evenings, tickets are $24 for general admission, $19 for seniors and $15 for students. Parking is free and near the theater.

For information or reservations, call the Garvin Theatre box office at 805.965.5935 or purchase tickets online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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