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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Arsenic and Old Lace

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Arsenic and Old Lace

What happens when a nephew catches on to the murderous schemes of his aunts? Anna Rodgers, left, Whittney Harris, Drew Norton and Nathan Defrees are some of the stars of "Arsenic and Old Lace," playing at Baker High School Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Presidents Day holiday. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).
What happens when a nephew catches on to the murderous schemes of his aunts? Anna Rodgers, left, Whittney Harris, Drew Norton and Nathan Defrees are some of the stars of "Arsenic and Old Lace," playing at Baker High School Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Presidents Day holiday. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Two little old women find that arsenic mixed with elderberry wine is a perfect way to cure the loneliness of elderly gentlemen — until their nephew finds a body in the window seat.

The Baker High School drama department will present the 1940 comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace" by Joseph Kesselring with three performances this weekend: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and Monday (Presidents Day) at 3 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students, children and seniors. All performances are in the BHS Auditorium.

Whittney Harris and Anna Rodgers play the two sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, who rent out an empty room in their home. If the prospective renter happens to be an elderly man, they sweetly ask if he has family. If the answer is no, and he admits that he's lonely, they offer him a glass of elderberry wine.

The practice continues unnoticed until their nephew Mortimer, played by Drew Norton, happens upon the scene. While searching for some important papers, he looks in the window seat box.

Then looks again.

That's dear Mr. Hoskins, the aunts reveal; then they try to get Mortimer to forget what he saw.

"I think Martha and I have the right to our own little secrets," Aunt Abby says.

And the surprises keep coming.

"I think this is 11," Martha says.

"No dear, this makes 12," Aunt Abby corrects. "When Mr. Hoskins first came in it occurred to me that he would make an even dozen.'"

Their killing ways all began when the first gentleman died of a heart attack and looked so peaceful.

The aunts resolved that "if we can help other old men to find that peace, we would."

Martha even lets Mortimer in on the secret recipe to their poisoned wine; if they use tea it has a "distinct odor."

"For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take a teaspoon full of arsenic, and add a half-teaspoon of strychnine and then just a pinch of cyanide," Martha tells him.

Mortimer doesn't quite agree with this practice, and attempts to reform his murdering aunts — who perform services for all the men before burying them in the cellar.

Along the way, the flustered Mortimer has to deal with his new fiancee Elaine, played by Shannon Russell-Hasel, who isn't sure if he's really ready to get married, while he tries to tell her that he shouldn't marry since insanity runs in the Brewster family.

Mortimer's off-kilter brother Teddy, played by Kyle Brickman, unknowingly assists his aunts with disposing of the bodies. Teddy, who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt, continuously digs the Panama Canal in the cellar — which the aunts use for graves.

To further complicate things, Mortimer's other brother, outlaw gangster Jonathan and his plastic surgeon Dr. Herman Einstein, played by Nathan Defrees and Stevie Martin, return to the house uninvited and bring another corpse into the mix.

Most of the action takes place in the Brewster home, with the auditorium stage built up with decorated walls, windows, stairs, an upstairs landing and four entrances.

Lynne Burroughs, BHS drama instructor and director of "Arsenic and Old Lace," said this is the first time they've used a full unit set in a production.

Mike Hibbard is the assistant director, and Jenny Wittich is the technical director in charge of the entire set.

More than 15 drama students take part in this production, helping spin the tale of two elderly murderesses.

"It's one of our charities," Aunt Abby reveals early in the play.

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