Actors nail both warmth and wickedness

A mix of outrageous characters and strong performances make for a fine evening of laughter

The cast of Arsenic and Old Lace after an entertaining performance at the Village Theatre Friday night.

The cast of Arsenic and Old Lace after an entertaining performance at the Village Theatre Friday night.


The actors who play two charming little old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace had no trouble creating an affable and welcoming ambiance in a beautiful old Brooklyn home located on set at the Village Theatre on Friday night.

And then, just as skillfully, the two actors show another side, and casually reveal an appalling little hobby in which their characters like to indulge.

And they make no bones about it. After all, they truly believe it’s “charity work.”

Both of the spinster aunts in the play are quite mad, along with a couple of their nephews, which makes for an entertaining, and at times, hilarious, couple of hours at the Village Theatre.

Echo Player’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace plays until June 9 at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach.

The two darling, elderly aunts are known as the Brewster sisters. Abby Brewster is played by Joan Bryan and Martha Brewster is played by Helen-Margaret Randall. The two make a great team, and seem to really capture the essence of the two guileless, almost childlike characters, who have their own little games going on in the house despite what their neighbours might think.

The other main role in the play is their nephew Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who believes, like everyone else in the community, that his aunts are simply lovely and sweet. Until he makes a gruesome discovery. Mortimer is played by Scott Murray who gives an enthusiastic performance and grabs many laughs with his telling facial expressions.

I have to say my favourite character was Teddy Brewster, a wonderfully crazy and unstable nephew who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt, played impeccably by Len Mustard.

This character is often digging locks for the Panama Canal in the house’s cellar, or tooting his bugle at inappropriate times and yelling “charge”.

Mortimer’s girlfriend, Elaine Harper, adds a bit of normality to the mad house, and Samantha Bau brings style and grace to that role. Charlie Whelton does a good job in his first role with Echo Players as Elaine’s dad who is also a Reverend. Whelton also plays an obtuse police officer nicely.

Susan Warner plays the other officer, and does a bang-up job, nailing the Boston accent.

Mell Frost had a strong performance playing the insane and creepy brother Jonathan Brewster, who shows us the sinister side of crazy. His partner in crime, the submissive Dr. Einstein, is played superbly by Jim Currey.

John Pope, husband to the director of the play, Eileen Pope, and one of the founders of the Village Theatre, captures his roles admirably, as an abrupt traveller looking for lodging and the superintendent of the Happy Dale Sanitorium, for the insane. Eileen’s son Lance also does great work in his role, as the dumbfounded police lieutenant.

Although there were a few slip-ups on the lines, which may have affected the delivery of some of the humour, the cast performed well overall and kept me happily entertained.

The set is beautifully done, there are many eye-catching outfits and the story is a classic, filled with a great mix of outrageous characters.

Tickets for the show are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Stop by the box office during office hours at 110 West 2nd Ave, call 250-752-3522 or email

Contest: Win two tickets to the show. Email with the name of one of the Brewster brothers for your chance to win. Draw will be done May 31.


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