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Arsenic and Old Lace opens Friday at Corn Stock Theatre

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Imagine sitting right outside somebody's house, peeking in the windows and listening while murders are being plotted and covered up.

That's the feeling Charles Brown hopes to give audiences of "Arsenic and Old Lace," the final show of Corn Stock Theatre's summer season under the tent in Upper Bradley Park. The show opens Friday and continues through Sept. 3, starting at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $12 each for adults and $10 for students 18 and younger. They can be ordered by calling Corn Stock at 676-2196 or online at

"Everything occurs in the living room of the house and what's great about the tent is that it will be like everybody in the audience is sitting right outside that room, looking in. The experience will start as soon as they walk in," said Brown, who is directing his first play at Corn Stock.

Photo courtesy of Blake Stubbs. Some members of the cast of "Arsenic and Old Lace," which opens Friday at Corn Stock Theatre's tent in Upper Bradley Park, pause during a recent rehearsal. The show runs through Sept. 3 and tickets are on sale at the theater."Arsenic and Old Lace" is a comedy written by Joseph Kasselring and centers on the maiden Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, who believe they are helping to end the suffering of lonely old bachelors by poisoning them, then using their brother Teddy, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the basement. Their plot is discovered by their nephew Mortimer, who spends much of the play trying to keep them, as well as himself, out of trouble.

With a set that he hopes looks as authentic as possible, down to the furniture pieces from the 1930s and 40s, Brown said, "My idea in composing this performance was to make it as real as possible and let the script be as funny as it is on its own, while letting the actors act."

With experienced as well as new performers in the cast, Brown said workshops he conducted before auditions helped make character development go more smoothly. That, he added, was important because it would be easy for some of the characters in the play to become mere caricatures.

"We're not doing it that way. The characters in this show are really pretty universal. Abby Brewster (played by Anita Rowden) is everybody's sweet, old great aunt and everybody will recognize her. Mortimer (played by Jeff Craig) is a man trying to balance everything in his life, which is real for everybody," he said.

Other cast members including Nan Coleman as Martha Brewster, Shane Pankey as Teddy Brewster, Dave Montague as Jonathan Brewster and Kerri Rae Hinman as Elaine Harper.

Tickets also are on sale at the Corn Stock box office for a sixth show at the tent, a fund raiser called "A Cole Porter Review" directed by Lee Wenger and Denise Adams.

The show, written by former Corn Stock performer/director Tom Joyce, will be Sept. 7, 8 and 9 only, starting at 7:30 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and can be ordered by calling 676-2196 or online at


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).