Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring

Family dysfunction gets a murderous twist in this dark comedy. The Brewster Sisters run a “room-for-rent” business out of their home. They promise room, board, and their special homemade elderberry wine. Their nephew Mortimer, a reluctant theater critic, pays a visit on the eve of his engagement and discovers his aunts’ unusual hospitality. Mayhem ensues as Mortimer tries to keep his aunts’ entrepreneurial endeavors at bay.

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Maine Crime Writers Staged Reading, Monday Jan 30, Complimentary Reception at 6:30pm and Reading at 7pm, Pay-What-You-Can

In conjunction with Portland Stage’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace, Affiliate Artists and other local actors will read selections from the work of Maine Crime Writers: Gerry Boyle, Brenda Buchanan, Paul Doiron, Chris Holm and Julia Spencer-Fleming. This one-of-a-kind evening will offer some juicy excerpts of the latest crime novels from some of Maine’s favorite crime writers.

Portland Stage creates powerful theater that resonates with our community. If you have questions about the subject or content of any of our plays, please contact the Box Office prior to purchasing tickets for a detailed synopsis.

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Joseph Kesselring

was an American playwright known best for Arsenic and Old Lace, a hit on Broadway from 1939 to 1944 and other countries as well. He was born in New York City to Henry and Frances Kesselring. His father’s parents were immigrants from Germany. His mother was an English Canadian. Kesselring spent much of his life in and around the theater. In 1922 he began teaching vocal music and directed stage productions at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas a Mennonite school. After two years, Kesselring left teaching and returned to the stage, working for two years with an amateur theatrical group in Niagara, New York.[2] He began working as a freelance playwright in 1933, completing 12 original plays, of which four were produced on Broadway: There’s Wisdom in Women (1935), Arsenic and Old Lace (1939), Four Twelves are 48 (1951), and Mother of that Wisdom (1963). Arsenic and Old Lace was his masterpiece. It ran for 1444 performances on Broadway and 1337 performances in London, and became a staple on the high school and dinner theater circuits. The movie version released in 1944 was also a comedy hit.

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