A sneak peek at “Arsenic and Old Lace”

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Maya Holt and Alex Haworth

The Valhalla Players’ newest production, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” promises to delight audiences with its killer twist on the typical comedy.

In the words of its director, Gretchen Stewart, the show is “a classic comedy with macabre overtones.”

The play’s plot revolves around the Brewster family and its eclectic members: three brothers— Jonathan, the masochist (junior Simon Jones), Mortimer, the “normal” one (senior Garrett Stanley) and Teddy, who literally thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt (junior Julian Adams)— as well as their elderly aunts who have a knack for hostessing.

“The two little old ladies take charity to a whole new level,” Stewart said. “One of their charities is putting lonely old men out of their misery.”

The story begins when recently-engaged Mortimer tries to pay an innocent visit to his aunts but unearths an alarming secret, explained senior Megan Hershgold, who plays Abby Brewster. The ensuing scenes are filled with a dramatic series of shocks, threats and accusations as Mortimer does his best to handle the bizarre situation that unfolds.

Junior Olivia Anderson, who plays Martha Brewster, spoke about the play’s unpredictability: “There’s a lot of moments where you’re like ‘Oh, I didn’t see that coming.’”

In addition to the play’s many surprises, its cast of eccentric characters adds another layer to the show. According to Anderson, they are all quite multifaceted.

“Each character has a lot of depth to them,” she said. “There’s more than just one villain, because people do evil things for different reasons and in different ways.”

Senior Caleb Ryden, who plays the Rev. Dr. Harper, elaborated on this point.

“The characters are so diverse and strange and it’s different from any show I’ve ever been in,” he said.

Hershgold explained that the extreme characters add to the overall complexity of the play, making the roles more challenging for the actors.

“There’s a lot of things we have to think about while getting into the character on the stage,” Hershgold said. “[The play] is definitely a comedy, but it’s intricate.”

Comedy lies at the core of the play; according to senior Carl Berg, who plays Lt. Rooney, the show is filled with “joke after joke.” That said, the play’s humor is always intertwined with death.

“It’s funny, very funny,” Anderson said. “But it’s also kind of a dark comedy.”

This combination of humor and morbidity is what gives the play its twisted sense of fun, and what ultimately makes it such an enjoyable show. The infusion of comedy should appeal to everyone, Anderson said; the play isn’t just targeted at theater buffs.

“If [people] have been considering seeing a play but aren’t sure, this would be a good one to see,” Anderson said. “It’s very funny, and that will keep people engaged.”

Stewart is also certain that audiences will enjoy the play’s humor.

“You will go out laughing,” she said, “and you will go out probably wanting to see it again.”

“Arsenic and Old Lace” opens Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Little Theater and will run weekends through Jan. 28. There will also be a matinee for $8 at 2:15 on Tuesday, Jan. 24 and 2 p.m. on Saturday Jan. 28.