Audiences should prepare to be highly entertained by Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) Drama Club’s upcoming performance of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
Shows will be performed at the school’s auditorium at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4, plus a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Viewers will be drawn in by the twists and turns of the witty, fast-paced script. All the characters — from leads to dead bodies — are brought to vivid life (or, in some cases, death) by talented student actors who fully commit to their comedic roles.
The detailed and expansive period set, specially designed costumes, and effective lighting transport the audience into the Brewster family home in 1941 St. Paul.
Although it is a comedy, “Arsenic and Old Lace” is based on a true crime that took place in Connecticut between 1908 and 1916. Kari Beutz, the show’s director and an EPHS English teacher, described the plot as follows:
“On the surface, Abby and Martha Brewster are sweet, generous, caring old ladies, but their nephew Mortimer soon discovers they are serial killers. What’s worse, the body of their latest victim is hidden in the window seat in their living room, where anyone could find it!
“Mortimer does his best to dispose of the evidence before his new fiancée Elaine finds out, but his plans are impeded when his psychopathic, also-serial-killing brother, Johnny, comes to visit, along with his plastic surgeon, Dr. Einstein.”
Beutz says she and the students chose to perform this play “because it’s just fun.”Although the play has been a huge amount of work for the technical crew and actors, she said, “Our efforts are all worth it if you laugh — and we all need to laugh after what we’ve been through the last few years!”
The cast and crew performed a full dress rehearsal on Wednesday, Feb. 1, in front of a small, appreciative audience.
Marit Kniffen, who plays Abby Brewster, said the most fun part of the performance was “finally being able to ham it up for someone. Finally saying these lines we’ve been repeating constantly, over and over and over again, and seeing how people laugh at them and react to them.
“Having it be a thing that people are enjoying, and not something weird we do in a warm auditorium in the back of the high school to nobody except maybe some techies in the house.”
Meanwhile, Noah Lins, who plays German plastic surgeon and criminal accomplice Dr. Einstein to a perfect comic turn, said his favorite part of the play was “moving the bodies.”
Tickets to see “Arsenic and Old Lace” are available online through Vanco Events using this link. All tickets are general admission, and cost $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.
Vintage props include Victorian settee donated by the Eden Prairie Historical Society
The play’s set is enhanced with vintage props and retro furnishings that evoke a 1940s home in St. Paul. The elaborate set build features two visible stories, including fully functional stairs and multiple doors, which add to the realistic impression.
Beutz also complimented the “beautiful” period costumes, which Carolyn Leppala created.
“She’s so creative and has so many great ideas,” Beutz said.
Beutz said it was fun using vintage props, which included an old-fashioned rotary phone. She said some of the student actors had never used one before and did not know they needed to pick up the receiver nor how to use the rotary dial.
“It was like a little history lesson there,” she joked.
The antique Victorian settee in the Brewster’s living room is a particularly special set item, having been donated to the production by the Eden Prairie Historical Society.
“I spotted it last fall at a vintage sale held by the Eden Prairie Historical Society,” Beutz said. Although the item was in rough condition, Beutz thought it could be perfect for the performance.
“I stopped back toward the end of the day, and they said, ‘If you can come pick it up, you can have it,’” she said.
The settee was in poor shape and needed to be stripped back and refinished — see photos of the process in the image gallery below.
“A couple of the crew members ripped out all of the old upholstery, cleaned it up, then took a pair of my old curtains and reupholstered it,” Beutz said. “So that was kind of a labor of love. Now, it looks great on stage.”
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