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Players' 'Arsenic and Old Lace' as I saw it Friday night by G. E. Pratt

REVIEWING "ARSENIC" or any college play for that matter, presents a rather difficult task. Firstly, college drama cannot be "reviewed" in the technical ~ense of the w_ord. Since "Arsenic" cannot rank with professiOnal theatre, 1t would be grossly unfair to judge the play by those rules. But in its class, Eastern's homecoming play production is quite definitely at the top. The cast, the crew and all persons connected with the play are to be congratulated for their worthy efforts. The cast as a whole gave interesting characterizations. Their perfonnances contributed to an over-all quality rating of "good" and "enjoyable." From the harsh eye of the critic, it might be pointed out that perhaps not all the roles were well cast. But Eastern has neither a booking agency nor, apparently, a large group of aspirants from which to draw the varied cast required for a production such as "Arsenic." Naturally some of the characters were more consistent or ou~ standing than others. 'Jlhis was in part due to the prominence of the character type being portrayed and in part to individual handling and interpretation of the particular role. Teddy Brewster (Jerry Robinson) had a role that couldn't help p r o d u c i n g laughs. Jerry had all the qual路 ities needed for the role, and he brought them into full play. There were no doubts in this writer's mind that his part would be capably performed. His big manly voice, his swagger and his position of attention made him every inch the President. He established the character at the first

and sustained him throughout the play. In charging upstairs, however, his shout of "Chaar-r-ge" could have been more sustained, 'vith a more explosive, positive initial outburst. M,ary Patton and Mary Hornbrook, as Martha and Abbie Brewster, undoubtedly turned in two of the best performances. Their interpretations were very

good and their portrayal of the characters closely paralleled the requirements for the two quiet, gentle sisters who are sane except on one point. Their moral approach to their "good samaritan homocide" was effectively put over to the audience. :Most important, Abbie and Martha complemented each 路 other; they sustained and integrated their roles and accents. Robert Zimmennan, as Dr. Einstein, must be placed in a class by himself. His performance was near professional. REZ "created" 0

his character. Zimmerman's being completely in character was evidenced by his "Ach himmels" when he stumbled against the chair during the Friday night performance. Although his accent seemed more Jewish than Austrian, he carried Dr. Einstein through all his scenes, including some otherwise dull ones. Bob Stuckey, as Jonathan Brewster, homicidal companion of Dr. Einstein, did not complement REZimmerman too well. His physical appearance was appropriate

to the role, but he failed t:> give the ch&~路acter the horror, the gruesomeness it demanded. Stuckey was adequate and although he read his lines well his delivery was not developed for the part. Dick McBride, as Mortimer, was good, but he did not balance Elaine (June Squibb) too well. Individually they were good, but together they were not entirely plausible. Dick did not seem at his best in this type of role. Miss Squibb should not be typed according to her commendable (Continued on page 4)


Player's 'Arsenic and Old Lace' as I saw it Thursday night by K. E. Hesler

AN ORTHODOX review of a college play is generally supposed to consist of line upon line of flowery, superfluous adjectives such as "breath taking," "superb acting," and "terrific"; but to use such hollow phrases in describing the Player's recent production of Joseph Kesselring's "Arsenic and Old Lace" would be to make a mockery of a good but not excellent play. Although the action progressed with a smooth flowing movement and the acting ability of the cast deserved the rendered ovation of the audience, an overall view of the production docs not justify classifying it in the success level with "Glass Menagerie." Best performances of the evening were given by Mary Frances Hornbrook and Mary Patton, who portrayed the two docile but sinister Brewster sisters, and Robert Zimmerman, the scared, whining, and evil Dr. Einstein. :\!iss Hornbrook and Miss Patton played their roles in an open, natural style that, throughout the entire play, identified them as Abby and .Martha Brewster and not as their own personalities. One of the major factors in their success was the consistent, nevervarying use of an adopted accent. Speaking of accents, the one used by Robe1·t. Zimmerman had a natural quality about it that certainly enhanced his performance. Bob might be called the "sparkplug'' of the production as he put some spirit into several dull scenes. Dick :\l cBride did a good job with his "double-takes," but at times he was guilty of "mugging" to an ex c e ,\ s. Such an exaggerated use t•f facial expressions generall)'\ rolls in a few laughs but adds' a note of slap-stick to the performance. One of the better roles in the play, that of Teddy Brewster, was well handled by Jeny Robinson. Some pre-performance doubt as to how Jerry would succeed in a role so adverse to his own personality chang:ed to a post-performance concession of a job capably done. It is always a difficult job to portray the voice and bodily characteristics of a character so weB known to the audience. What seemed to be a bit of spontaneous action, if not accidental, was the three-point fall executed by Bill Tucker ()lr. Gibbs) as he hurriedly fled the Brewster

home; he came just a little to close to the edge of the stage. June Squibb did a good job with the 1·ole of Elaine Harper, but it seemed as though the part wasn't exactly her type. This belief may stem, of course, from remembering her as Laura in "Glass Menagerie." She appeared to be a bit self-conscious during several scenes, especial1y the leg-displaying one. The villain of the pla y, Robcrt Stuckey as J onatha n Brewster, was supposed to be a particularly vicious person, and although he performed his bodily movements a nd gestures in the proper manner, • he didn't give the voice cha racterization all t hat it demanded. Some of the criticism, however, may come indirectly from the tired feeling one incurred during the first act. Besides being somewhat too long, the first act had a very dull opening; and so could be compared to a barge floating down the Mississippi, occasionlly hitting a submerged stump to give its riders a sudden jolt-then back to routine. For a college production the play must be credited with an above average rating with special praise given to the sincerity of the cast as a whole.

(8y :\lk.; Rut h H uff Cline)

The play, "Arseni:: an:! Cld Lace," by J~h Kesselring, was present- , ed by Mr. Gabbard and his students of drama as the homecoming play at Eastern Illinois State college on November 3 and 4. The plot of this play is too familiar to be ))resented here. The humor of the play grows out of a , c:mfuslon of moral values and a cavalier treatment of these values. Are the old ladle.>, the Brewster sisters, criminals? The author brings this question lio our attention vlvldlv In the scene In which Jonathan ·Brewster, a real thug, ticks off his twelve murders against the Brewster sisters' twelve. M,uy Patton and Mary Frnnces Hornbrook Interpreted the part::; of the sisters well, winning the sympathies of the audience and holdin3 their character part~; throughout the play. Jonathon Bre\vsLer, played as a crude insensitive cr)ninal by Robert Stuckey, formed a good contrast to the airv character cr Dr. Einstein, admirably Interpreted and sust:~ined by Robert Zimmerman. In addition to the contrast of the old ladles to trur criminals, the authors also c:mt.rasted these ladies, mentally untsalanced w!th reference to only QtlC aspe:t of life, to a completely un'Jalanced but harmless person, their brother Teddy Brewster. well played by Jerry Robinson. 'I'eddy's amusing cavortings abcut the stage kept one aware of the insane world in which the action WJ~:; taking place. , Dramatic Irony, an lmport.'lnt feature of the play, was well brought out. The policemen, played by John Simmons, Eugene Mazzone and Gaydon Brandt, walk about in the midst of cr!me In the most obtuse detective story manner. Don Rothschild, in his small part. l!t up the stage In his portrayal of the obtusity of Lieutenant Rooney. Other small parts well cast were those of Reverend DT. Harper, done by Rlch:trd Alll~on, Mr. Wither~poon by Richard Wllken, and espechlly the part of Mr. Gibbs, done, by Bill TUcker. In the midst of crime and confusion. young love goes on. Those who .snw June Squibb's admirable work in "The Glass Menagerie" were pleased to see her perform well in an entirely different role. She brought. freshness and youth into the scenes marked by age and crime. And finally, taking the part of the lover as well -as the more Important one of the Innocent and sane person aware of the crime and insanity he is in the midst of, Mortimer Brewster was playtld by Dick McBride. Mr. McBride's acting was able throughout and In some scenes, the first discovery of the body in the window seat !or instance, his timing and Interpretation were particularly good. This character was very difficult to interpret and in conscquC<lce the portrayal shifted from rather emotional reactions to casual b.cceptancc of the situations. The arising of the 12 corpses in the cellar In the form of well known figures of Eastern's staff ~as an Inspired idea for homecom-

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Players' 'Arsenic and Old Lace' as I saw it Friday night by G. E. Pratt

REVIEWING "ARSENIC" or any college play for that matter, presents a rather difficult task. Firstly, college drama cannot be "reviewed" in the technical ~ense of the w_ord. Since "Arsenic" cannot rank with professiOnal theatre, 1t would be grossly unfair to judge the play by those rules. But in its class, Eastern's homecoming play production is quite definitely at the top. The cast, the crew and all persons connected with the play are to be congratulated for their worthy efforts. The cast as a whole gave interesting characterizations. Their perfonnances contributed to an over-all quality rating of "good" and "enjoyable." From the harsh eye of the critic, it might be pointed out that perhaps not all the roles were well cast. But Eastern has neither a booking agency nor, apparently, a large group of aspirants from which to draw the varied cast required for a production such as "Arsenic." Naturally some of the characters were more consistent or ou~ standing than others. 'Jlhis was in part due to the prominence of the character type being portrayed and in part to individual handling and interpretation of the particular role. Teddy Brewster (Jerry Robinson) had a role that couldn't help p r o d u c i n g laughs. Jerry had all the qual路 ities needed for the role, and he brought them into full play. There were no doubts in this writer's mind that his part would be capably performed. His big manly voice, his swagger and his position of attention made him every inch the President. He established the character at the first

and sustained him throughout the play. In charging upstairs, however, his shout of "Chaar-r-ge" could have been more sustained, 'vith a more explosive, positive initial outburst. M,ary Patton and Mary Hornbrook, as Martha and Abbie Brewster, undoubtedly turned in two of the best performances. Their interpretations were very

good and their portrayal of the characters closely paralleled the requirements for the two quiet, gentle sisters who are sane except on one point. Their moral approach to their "good samaritan homocide" was effectively put over to the audience. :Most important, Abbie and Martha complemented each 路 other; they sustained and integrated their roles and accents. Robert Zimmennan, as Dr. Einstein, must be placed in a class by himself. His performance was near professional. REZ "created" 0

his character. Zimmerman's being completely in character was evidenced by his "Ach himmels" when he stumbled against the chair during the Friday night performance. Although his accent seemed more Jewish than Austrian, he carried Dr. Einstein through all his scenes, including some otherwise dull ones. Bob Stuckey, as Jonathan Brewster, homicidal companion of Dr. Einstein, did not complement REZimmerman too well. His physical appearance was appropriate

to the role, but he failed t:> give the ch&~路acter the horror, the gruesomeness it demanded. Stuckey was adequate and although he read his lines well his delivery was not developed for the part. Dick McBride, as Mortimer, was good, but he did not balance Elaine (June Squibb) too well. Individually they were good, but together they were not entirely plausible. Dick did not seem at his best in this type of role. Miss Squibb should not be typed according to her commendable (Continued on page 4)



EIU Theatre Arts - Arsenic and Old Lace 1949