Review: Enjoy a glass of (arsenic) elderberry wine

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CREEDE — Creede Repertory Theatre presents the classic “Arsenic and Old Lace” in its own unique style this season.

For example, Donovan Woods is no Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster, but as the only Black actor in an otherwise all-white cast of Brewsters, audience members are given an obvious clue early on that this particular Brewster is not the same as his crazy relatives.

Woods plays well the part of Mortimer, the only member of his delightfully dysfunctional family who sees his aunts’ odd “habits” as criminal. Each member of the cast, in fact, plays his or her part so well that it is difficult to single any specific performer out.

Of course the audience can’t help but love the well-meaning Brewster aunties, performed by Anne Butler and CRT veteran actress Christy Brandt, who is always a joy to watch in action. They are joined in this classic comedy by stand out performances from Logan Ernstthal as Teddy (who thinks he is Roosevelt) Brewster, John DiAntonio as Jonathan Brewster, Rick Wasserman as Dr. (not Albert) Einstein and Emily Van Fleet as Elaine Harper whose romantic desires always seem to be thwarted.

All of the action takes place on one cleverly constructed set featuring the Brewster living room with exits to kitchen, upstairs and basement, which can easily be envisioned in the imagination as deluded Teddy Brewster charges up “San Juan Hill” or down in the basement to dig another “lock in the Panama Canal.”

Kudos must also go to Wasserman as the makeup designer for DiAntonio as Jonathan Brewster, a Boris Karloff lookalike who is often referenced in both looks and action during the play.

The actors often over dramatize their actions, such as a scene when the Brewster sisters are serving a meal to unwanted guests, but the character of the play wouldn’t be the same without it.

Stage set, costume, makeup and performance all work together to make this one of the plays to watch at CRT this season.

The PG-rated play continues in repertory with CRT’s other great performances this season, with upcoming performances on July 11, 16, 19 and 20, all at 7:30 p.m., July 23 at 1:30 p.m. and more performances through August 9. Call 719-658-2540 or see creederep.org

Caption: Creede Repertory Theatre actor John DiAntonio is expertly transformed into a Boris Karloff villain in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Photo courtesy of CRT

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