Edsel Ford stages ‘Arsenic and Old Lace;’ Inspiring ‘Joseph’ opens at Guild

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Mortimer, played by junior Nathaniel Booth (front row right), 16, tries to placate his fiancé Elaine Harper, played by sophomore Sarah Remily (front row left), 15, while his scheming relatives look on. Senior Clare Russell (back row left), 17, plays Abby Brewster, junior Benjamin Timpf, 16, portrays Teddy Brewster and junior Joanna Frantz, 16, plays Martha Brewster. Edsel Ford High School presents “Arsenic and Old Lace” at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 to 17 at the high school, 20601 Rotunda in Dearborn.

Edsel Ford High School presents Joseph Kesselring’s farcical dark comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” at 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday in the school auditorium, 20601 Rotunda Drive in Dearborn.

Directed by Robert Doyle, tickets are $10 at the door, with discounts for seniors, students and with advance purchase.

Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic, thought his only concern was whether his girlfriend, Elaine, would accept his marriage proposal. However, he accidentally discovers his two sweet spinster aunts, Abby and Martha, are murdering lonely old men in their boarding house with poisoned elderberry wine, while Teddy Brewster, who thinks he is Theodore Roosevelt, provides graves in the basement by digging what he thinks is the Panama Canal.

The Brewster cast includes senior Clare Russell, 17, as Abby; junior Joanna Frantz, 16, as Martha; junior Benjamin Timpf, 16, as Teddy; junior Nathaniel Booth, 16, as Mortimer; and sophomore Michael Nelson, 15, as Jonathan.

Sophomore Sarah Remily, 15, plays Elaine Harper, Mortimer’s girlfriend, with sophomore Spencer Venis, 15, as her father, the Rev. Dr. Harper.

Junior Abdel-Raeuf El-Alami, 16, plays Dr. Einstein, while senior David Nycz, 17, plays Officer O’Hara and senior Kevin Talanges, 17, plays Lieutenant Rooney.

Others in the cast include junior Silas Abdullah, 16, as Officer Brophy; sophomore Teria Berry, 15, as Officer Klein; junior Christian Colorossi, 16, as Mr. Gibbs; and junior Errick Lisk, 16, as Mr. Witherspoon.

Doyle is placing audience members onstage, creating a very intimate setting with the Brewster family.

“The audience will enjoy all of the tongue-in-cheek humor,” Doyle said. “They’ll love the foreshadowing. They’ll love the back-and-forth play where they know what’s going on and it’s later revealed in the action going on onstage.”

Frantz loves the contradictions in her character.

“They’re supposed to be sweet old ladies,” Frantz said. “They wouldn’t even hurt a fly, but they’ve actually killed 12 men. So it’s a contradiction.”

She said she had to remove all sarcasm from her characterization, and she has to keep a straight face when her fellow players deliver straight lines meant to be funny.

She added that by seating audience members onstage, they are right in the Brewster living room, which makes the show seem more dramatic and comedic.

Timpf said playing a character who thinks he is Theodore Roosevelt is a fun role to play.

“I’ve never really been the comic relief,” Timpf said. “It really brings a different dimension to my acting with the comedic timing.”

He added that by seating audience members on the stage, it adds a dynamic element to the show, and people can see the smaller things that happen on stage that they might not notice if they’re in the audience.

Russell said her character is very energetic for a little old lady, and somewhere between crazy and smart.

“They have this wicked sense of humor,” Russell said. “They’re killing old men that are lonely, and then again, they’re smart, because they realize maybe it will make them more peaceful when they are dead because if they have no one now, why should they be here?”

Booth said “Arsenic and Old Lace” is a classic, and they have a bunch of rambunctious actors playing the parts.

“It’s a lot of physical comedy,” Booth said. “It’s a lot of farcical stuff. A lot of things that are just so insane that they feel like they couldn’t happen in real life and that is what makes it funny.”

He predicts that the show will keep audiences laughing.

“It’s very physical comedy,” he said. “There are a lot of funny actors in it and it’s a great group.”

From talented children to Guild veterans, the Players Guild of Dearborn launched the first musical of its 85th season, Webber and Rice’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with a kaleidoscope of talent, eye-popping lighting, bright costumes and sets, and tunes that will set your toes tapping and keep you humming long after you leave the theater.

The show, which opened Nov. 9, also plays Nov. 16 to 18, 23 to 25 and Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 for full weekend runs. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees.

Directed by Kim Donovan of Northville and produced by Valerie Haas of Inkster, the show features the choreography of Janeen Bodary of Dearborn Heights and the musical direction of Paul Abbott of Allen Park.

For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

The show is full of details that will delight and entertain. Donovan has given the children’s chorus an active and entertaining role, adding a wonderful human element to the production.

Diane Kaplan took on the daunting task of costuming the 48-member cast in multiple bright and eye-catching costumes, and the result is visually stunning and fun to see. From Egypian glitz to Canaan charm, from ’60s retro to Joseph’s colorful coat, the cast is clad in a kaleidoscope of color borrowed, created and rented from numerous sources, as well as pulled from the Guild’s extensive and eclectic collection.

David Reynolds’ lighting adds an extra dimension of delight as well, whether filling the auditorium with many points of light, energizing the set with multi-colored chase lights or setting a gloomy or celebratory mood.

The song and dance numbers fill the auditorium with energy – if you blink, you will miss something special. The adult cast is constantly changing costumes, from traditional Israelites to hoedown dancers, to sparkly, Vegas-inspired Egyptians to Fosse-inspired Pontiphar servants.

Bodary makes the most of the talented cast, choreographing lifts, staging sexy tangos and creating a fun ’60s retro number. She combines clever choreography with neat touches of humor, and the cast ably pulls it off.

The Fosse-inspired Potiphar number, with the evil wife seducing Joseph, is stylized, clever and fun to watch. The Egyptian showgirls accompanying Elvis the Pharaoh King are fun and infused with energy, and “Canaan Days” is just plain fun, making the most of the camaraderie of Joseph’s 11 brothers.

Even the 15 children in the cast are energetic and dedicated troupers, whether running down the aisles of the theater, keeping pace with the adult ensemble in the company numbers or entertaining the house with stylized playground games. The Guild’s future is safe with these talented children in the wings.

Donovan makes the most of every member of the talented cast, and often highlights the individual dancing, singing and character acting talent in the cast.

Brandon Mace carries the show with his strong, self-effacing and likeable portrayal of Joseph.

Leah Cooley and Sydnee Rider are wonderful in the dual role of narrators, and create a fun dynamic and an enjoyable shared sound.

“One More Angel in Heaven” features Maddie Kaplan’s incredible voice in a cameo, with Dale Zanardelli as the lead soloist in the number.

Jeff Lokken is funny as the British butler (reminiscent of Robin Leach) in Pharaoh’s court.

Mellissa Smith-L’Heureux has fun as the sexy and deliciously evil vampish wife of Potiphar, cleverly portrayed by cigar-chomping Matt Calder.

Even the stage crew, wearing Ishmaelite costumes, gets in the action.

Each actor in the ensemble has a chance to shine, whether happily eating a fly, like James Mayne, the clever character soloist in “Canaan Days,” defying gravity like dancers Jade Reynolds, Jillian Drapala and Michael Suchyta, or finding the humor in farce like Dale Zanardelli, who plays the eldest brother, Reuben.

Even if you have seen “Joseph” before, you will enjoy the spirited fun, find new things to enjoy, and leave the theater grinning and tapping your toes.

For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.