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Dark Humor Sparkles in ‘Arsenic’

Aubrey Meeks, a student at Hayfield Secondary School, reviews "Arsenic and Old Lace," by Mount Vernon High School.

At what point do you cross the line from the wonderful world of sanity into the destructive world of mental illness? In Mount Vernon High School’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the performers dance along that line, taking the audience on a hilarious journey.

“Arsenic and Old Lace,” by Joseph Kesselring, is set in a quiet part of Brooklyn in the 1940s. Here we meet two little old ladies, Abby and Martha Brewster, who don’t seem like they could harm a fly. When their nephew Mortimer discovers a dead body in their quaint, floral window seat, it becomes clear that this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

The ensemble work was strong throughout the production. Malcolm Montgomery and Katelyn Arthur had chemistry as Mortimer Brewster and Elaine Harper, a newly engaged couple. The duo was believable as in lovers and showed excellent character work.

Kevin McNelis as Mortimer’s brother Jonathan, and Eddie Maldonado as his partner in crime, Dr. Einstein, also gave strong performances. The two played well off each other. Maldonado in particular brought the show’s hilarity to new heights.

Another memorable mischief-maker was Andrew McKellips, who played Teddy Brewster, a third brother, with excellent physical humor and comedic timing.

The set was wonderfully detailed. From the lacy white curtains that hung on retro, striped walls, to the graveyard scene outside the open bay window, it felt as though the audience were looking into an actual living room.

The set dressing added to this illusion, and created a homey feel, setting the tone of the story without taking away from the action.

One of the most impressive qualities of Mount Vernon’s production was the technical work. The lighting crew executed its art with precision and professionalism. In Act II, a lighting effect used to show candlelight impressively combined a color change with a flickering technique to create an effect that was phenomenal and unique.

The sound was also well done, and all actors could be heard easily throughout the show’s three acts.

Mount Vernon High School took a very popular show and made it their own. The entire cast should be proud of a job well done.

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 25, 2008; 10:20 AM ET
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