ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
By Joseph Kesselring
Dallas Theater Center
Director: Scott Schwartz
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Curtis Craig
Composer/Lyricist: Michael Holland
Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Stage Manager: Melissa Daroff
Abigail Brewster: Tovah Feldshuh
Reverend Doctor Harper/Lt. Rooney: Paul Taylor
Teddy Brewster: J. Brent Alford
Officer Klein: Sean O'Connor
Officer Brophy: Chris McCreary
Martha Brewster: Betty Buckley
Elaine Harper: Abbey Siegworth
Mortimer Brewster: Lee Trull
Mr. Gibbs/Mr. Witherspoon: Steve Powell
Jonathan Brewster: Jason Douglas
Dr. Einstein: Nehal Joshi
Officer O'Hara: James Crawford
Reviewed Performance 2/12/2011
Reviewed by Jason Kane, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Dallas Theater Center's production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" has been marketed as a vehicle for two grand dames of American Theatre: Tovah Feldshuh and Betty Buckley. While both ladies live up to their reputations of being two of the finest actors of their generation, they were not the only delights in the show. What you get for your night at the Kalita Humphreys is far more than just a star vehicle, for these uber-talented ladies are surrounded by an ensemble of Dallas actors who equal their more famous co-stars in talent and stage presence alike.
While some in the audience seemed to be waiting for that inevitable moment when Ms. Buckley would sing something for the adoring crowd (and the moment did in fact satisfy), what we were treated to in the meantime was the sublime performances given by Paul Taylor, J. Brent Alford, Abbey Siegworth, Lee Trull, Jason Douglas, Nehal Joshi and James Crawford.
I mention all of the above simply because they each had moments to shine in this fresh staging of a theatre classic. Most of them are well-known from their other appearances on Dallas stages, but many of them flexed acting muscles they've seldom gotten to stretch lately. Lee Trull, in particular, was a delight to watch as he scurried across furniture and reacted to each plot twist hurled in his direction.
Paul Taylor also stood out as a not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is police lieutenant who couldn't sniff out what was right under his nose. Fresh from Houston, and a newcomer to the Dallas stage, Jason Douglas was downright creepy as Jonathan, the lost and forgotten brother who returns to the family home with bombast (and bullying to boot).
Dames Feldshuh and Buckley, for their part, did not disappoint. Ms. Feldshuh flitted about the beautiful set design by Anna Louizos like a woman half her?life experience. Ms. Buckley was surprisingly more demure, setting up the dear older lady who's only doing those men a service by hurrying them to their graves. Each seemed to dive into her role as a team player, knowing that a lot of the heavy lifting (literally) would be falling to others, such as Trull, Douglas and Nehal.
Director Scott Schwartz (who directed the New York productions of "Bat Boy: The Musical", Jonathan Larson's "tick?tick?Boom!" and the Broadway production of "Golda's Balcony, with Ms. Feldshuh), did his best to keep the ball rolling throughout. On this particular Saturday night, however, the second act?while denser and more farcical than the first?felt a little too long. Having seen the show in the middle of its five-show weekend, perhaps the pacing was off its usual mark.
William Ivey Long, who was responsible for the costume designs of Broadway's "Hairspray" and the primary-colored Nathan Lane revival of "Guys and Dolls", was gorgeously subtle with his wardrobe for "Arsenic and Old Lace". That is, aside from the hilarious funeral dresses for his leading ladies.
The program notes offer an argument for "Why this show? Why here? Why now?", but a chance to laugh seems as good an excuse as any.
"Arsenic and Old Lace" will seem quaint to some. After all, it premiered on Broadway in 1941 and was adapted into a much-loved film starring Cary Grant and Peter Lorre.
But chestnut or not, it can't be denied that American Theatre Royalty plus some of the best acting talent in Dallas/Ft. Worth equals a pretty darn good night out.
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Dallas, TX 75204
Runs through March 13th
Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm (additional performance Sunday, March 13th at 7:30pm)
Tickets: 214-880-0202 or online at www.dallastheatercenter.org