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MAT brings 'Arsenic and Old Lace' to MSU-N tonight


The Montana Actors' Theatre will present a classic comedy starting this week.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" will make its debut tonight at 8 in the Little Theatre at Montana State University-Northern. Written by Joseph Kesselring, the play follows the antics of two murderously eccentric women and their relationships with their insane family.

The play's director, Donald Mayer, said MAT has put a new twist on an old classic.

"It's a well known show," he said. "It's been made into a movie, and been performed by a number of theater groups. But people should expect the unexpected. It's the type of show that will keep you on your feet."

"Arsenic" is the second play Mayer has directed, and his first as a main MAT production. The play boasts a cast of 14, and includes college and high school students as well as a mother-daughter duo.

The play will run today through Saturday, and April 3-5, and starts at 8 p.m. on all dates. The production takes a light-hearted approach to death and murder, and is appropriate for all ages, Mayer said.

"The premise of the play is that death is comedy," he said. "What is normally a very serious subject becomes funny in this case."

The play is set inside the home of Martha and Abby Brewster, played by Pam Veis and Vicki VanCleave. The deadly duo enjoy visitors and strong wine, and manipulate their harmlessly insane nephew Teddy (Martin Holt) into assisting their odd agenda.

Teddy's two brothers, Mortimer and Jonathan, are thrown into the mix along with a boozing plastic surgeon, played by Mike Palmer. Mortimer (Phil Schatzka) is arguably the only sane one in the bunch. He is constantly struggling with his estranged fiancee, (Mikyla Veis), who happens to be the daughter of a minister (Rick Vogel).

Mortimer clashes with Jonathan (Wade Miller) over their childhood, and with his aunts and their not-so-innocent secret.

Four inept police officers and "the one who got away" round out the cast of hilarious characters.

Pam Veis said she was impressed with the efforts of high school students who participated.

"It's really a credit to them," she said. "They worked really hard and brought a lot of energy to the set. They were great."

The set was made by drama students at Havre High School.

Mayer said the play will offer people a chance to escape from the turmoil of world events.

As the minister in the play remarks: "The war and violence seem far removed from these surroundings."

The play takes place in Brooklyn, N.Y., during World War II.


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