Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arsenic and Old Lace at the Court Square Theater, Springfield, Mass.

“Aresnic and Old Lace” toured New England in 1941, and played two nights and a Wednesday matinee on November 25th and 26th. Featured in the cast was Laura Hope Crews (center, above), who returned to the stage after several film roles, among them the fretful and childlike Aunt Pittypat Hamilton in “Gone With the Wind” (1939). “Arsenic was one of Laura Hope Crews’ last roles before her death the following November in 1942.

Miss Crews and Effie Shannon, who was originally from Cambridge, Mass., played the sweetly sinister sisters Brewster. Forrest Orr, last seen here on tour with “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” played the bombastic and childlike “Teddy” Brewster who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt.

The unique, if, much parodied Hollywood legend Erich von Stroheim played the evil Jonathan Brewster. Mr. Stroheim, actor, writer, and director, must have made an entertaining evil brother Jonathan (the role was originated on Broadway that January by Boris Karloff).

Directed by Joseph Kesslring, the show would become a film vehicle for James Stewart in 1944 (last seen here getting bawled out by Jane Cowl in Boston), and would become for decades to come the favorite chestnut of community theater groups around the country. One wonders if this show is always playing sometime, somewhere, though surely Halloween must be its high season.

This local newspaper ad tells us the tickets went from $1.10 up to $2.75 for orchestra seats, though you could get cheap seats at the matinee for 55 cents.

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