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Show Promises You’ll Die Laughing

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Annette Ritzko
Clockwise: Lauren Schuster, freshman
speech language pathology major, Adam Ercolani, junior English major, and Adam Meyers, freshman communications major share a drink.

The Misericordia Players are preparing to perform the comedic classic, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and as the title implies, the dark comedy has all the comforts of grandmother’s kitchen with scenes that even Jack the Ripper would enjoy.

Jeffrey Kelly, Manager of Cultural and Special Events and director of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” said living up to expectations is most challenging part of this show in particular.

“It’s a show that everyone knows, may have seen the movie or the show and know some of the jokes. The hard part for us is coming up with our own ideas and concepts and really making the show our own so that we don’t put up the same show you’ve seen time and again, while also staying true to what the show really is,” said Kelly.

Kelly is not keen on giving away too much, but he believes there is one line in the play that can resonate with anyone. He said the show is an old traditional classic, which many people have seen, in which there are  two aunts who live in and old fashioned home just out of the 1930s.

“You kind of watch them go through their day and when their family comes in, it’s exactly what you’d expect. They spoil them rotten. They are filling you with so much food that you can’t possibly keep down and then you see a little bit of the insane side of things, and my favorite line in the show is “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops,” and I think that’s one of those lines in the show that anyone can kind of relate to and you see that from these aunts,” said Kelly.

Lauren Schuster, first year speech-language pathology major, who plays Abby Brewster, one of the main characters, said that not only is this her first experience with the university’s theater group, it’s also her first time acting in a straight play, one without music.

“I play Abby Brewster, and she is a very sweet old woman who helps lonely old gentlemen find peace in her own odd and less than legal kind of way. It has been a really cool experience seeing the family atmosphere of the cast, getting to work under Jeff, and seeing how great his directing style is and the overall the experience,” said Schuster.

Michaela McQuaig, junior occupational therapy major, plays Martha Brewster, the sister to Abby Brewster.

“We love having guests over and entertaining and just having a busy house. We make it a point to be friends with everyone. We’re just gentle, kind old ladies who have a merciful heart,” said McQuaig about the characters.

The hardest part about being in the show for McQuaig is balancing her busy life around it, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, life isn’t fun if it’s all just work and no ‘play,’ she said.

“Theater is really an outlet for me. So it’s good to devote my time to this as well and just have the outlet to just be a character on stage. I’ve made some of my close friends through it and it helps put my life into perspective,” said McQuaig.

Jacob Schweiger, who plays Teddy Brewster, one of the funniest characters in the play, is a second year doctor of physical therapy graduate student who understands the challenge of fitting theater into his schedule. Still, has been able to perform in at least one play every year since he’s been at the university. He said two of the reasons he returns to the theater are the director and the atmosphere.

“A lot of it is the atmosphere and obviously I have a lot of respect for the director and as difficult as it is to add on to a hard day of classes, it’s also something fun and a way to unwind,” said Schweiger.

The character of Teddy Brewster is especially enjoyable for Schweiger because, to his delight, the role requires him to act a little less than sane.

“It’s a unique character because he is all around crazy. He believes that he is Theodore Roosevelt. His aunts and brother play along with it, and he’s absolutely convinced that he is. He even makes up the people in his life to be the ones who would be in Roosevelt’s life. It’s fun playing a crazy person,” said Schweiger.

Adam Ercolani, junior English and business major, plays the main male protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, the nephew of Abby and Martha and the brother to Teddy Brewster.

“He is a somewhat snooty but also funny and kind-hearted theater critic,” said Ercolani.

Ercolani is also no stranger to the stage, having been in over 40 performances at the university and many other theaters in the area. Aside from theater, he filmed a TV pilot in December and was recently contacted about casting for a feature horror film.

Ercolani relishes the opportunity to play older characters.

“In other community theaters, casting is based on the actual age, so here you get to experiment with acting out different age groups and you’re not stuck as one type of character that’s specifically your age,” said Ercolani.

Stardom isn’t only for the living, or so Kimberly Kowalski, junior English secondary education major, may have you believe. Kowalski plays Mr. Adam Hoskins, a man who doesn’t make it on the stage alive.

“I play Mr. Adam Hoskins who is just a dead body in the play,” said Kowalski. “I’m in a unique position in which because I am not focused on my character, I can see how the cast grows and interacts with each other.”

Kowalski said there’s no shortage of jokes for her character, and she said she has heard the sentence, “Kim, you better learn your lines,” more than once. Her main concern with the play is making sure Schweiger, who plays Teddy, knows how to carry her so that she doesn’t become an actual dead body.

Whether you’re interested in seeing the play or not, Kelly thinks a good reason to see any of the university’s performances is to show support.

“Always show your support to the university and to these hard-working individuals that range from a graduate physical therapy major down to a first year undeclared student. Here we are at eleven at night while it’s snowing, and we’re just leaving. We put a lot of time and work into this. Also it’s a classic, so why wouldn’t you want to see your friends and loved ones on stage playing those iconic roles,” said Kelly.

The Players will perform “Arsenic and Old Lace” March 22-24 at 8 p.m. and March 25 at 2 p.m in the Lemmond theater

General admission tickets are $5, and $3 for senior citizens, university students and alumni. Tickets are available at the door, in Banks the week of the show or online at http://www.misericordia.edu/arsenic .

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Show Promises You’ll Die Laughing