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Review: SBCC Theatre Group Delivers Fresh Take on ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

A classic comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace, has been produced in more schools and community theaters than anyone can count, as well as on Broadway and as a film starring Cary Grant. But with a talented director and cast, something new can always be found among the dusty old lace.

Director Katie Laris has done a magnificent job of bringing a fresh take on an old standard in the SBCC Theatre Group's production, running through July 26. In the program notes, she shares that this is one of her favorite plays, and the love shows.

Kudos also to scenic and lighting designer Patricia Frank, as the set — the Brewster sisters’ gracious old Brooklyn home — is practically one of the show’s characters, lovingly dressed and furnished.

Leslie Ann Story, as Abby Brewster, has strong presence and is thoroughly believable.

As her sister, Martha, a quieter and more deferential character, Linda MacNeal plays off Leslie beautifully, and they are a great team.

Jay Carlander is Mortimer Brewster, their nephew and drama critic. There are some very humorous references to writing theater reviews, which were not lost on this reviewer. Sharp, funny and with a great command of physical humor, he does a fine job as the straight man for all the craziness going on around him while also playing the romantic lead.

Samantha Eve is strong as Elaine, his lady love, a smart and sexy young woman who seems to delight in taking some liberties with the morality of the time. Eve looks gorgeous in elegant period costume, charmingly petite in contrast to towering, lanky Carlander.

As Teddy Brewster, the brother who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, Christopher Lee Short is incredible — absolutely authentic looking, and has the voice and mannerisms to a T. He plays the part with real gusto and dedication, with every charge up the staircase a delight.

A wonderful comic actor whose talents are not fully used here, Ed Lee plays sidekick, Dr. Einstein, to the murderous brother, Jonathan Brewster.

Edward Romine is a standout in a small role as a police officer with a secret dream of being a playwright. The scene where he pantomimes the plot of his play for Mortimer in a clever montage using blackouts between segments is priceless.

Pamela Shaw has done a stunning job with costuming. There is plenty of attention to detail, including the period police uniforms. The centerpiece is Teddy’s many changes of costume, from top hat and tails to safari gear — fantastic!

Do take the opportunity to see this high-quality production while you have the chance. Even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll likely learn something new. For example, I took a hint from Mortimer and saved time by writing my review on the way to the theater!

Click here for tickets and information.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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