‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

CAST community theater presents ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ March 8-11 at McClellan Theatre.

 Sometimes, the arts are called upon to achieve a mission. “Arsenic and Old Lace,” first presented in 1941 in New York, helped lift the spirits of Americans during World War II with a fun night of entertainment. The classic play, presented decades later by CAST community theater March 8-11 at McClellan Theatre, can still bring on laughs from viewers.

Longleaf Botanical Gardens’ Spring Symposium on March 15 also has a mission: to make sowing and reaping less of an overwhelming task.

Both events include actors/speakers from our area and are open to the public.

If you think at first in “Arsenic and Old Lace” that the Brewster household is a peaceful place with simple delights, don’t be fooled. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in the case of Abby and Martha Brewster, who seem to be purely charming and generous elderly sisters — until they speak of what’s inside the window seat.

In fact, the Brewster family seems to have only one sane member: Mortimer, the theater critic for a New York newspaper. He must deal with Teddy and Jonathan, his weird brothers, and his spinster aunts, who have a mind of their own in keeping their secrets.

Teddy has decided he is Theodore Roosevelt (what an imagination), and Jonathan could be called a mass murderer, but all in fun.

Elaine, the minister’s daughter who lives next door, insists on marrying Mortimer. But Dr. Harper, Elaine’s father, has some doubts about Mortimer because of the young man’s connections with the theater. Whether some family members should be taken to Happy Dale Home is a question that must be answered.

“It is well written and well structured,” said Michael Boynton, who portrays Mortimer. “It’s designed to be fun for everyone, with the laughs starting right away.”

The comedy has worked well for high schools and community theaters through the years and is going well in rehearsals on the CAST stage, he added. “These are strong actors with high energy,” he said. “The cast claims colorful characters, too, the police officers included. They all get a chance to shine.”

The CAST production is directed by Dylan Hurst. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The Sunday matinee is at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students.

If interested in helping out with the production, contact Hurst at dylanthurst@yahoocom.

The roles are played by:

Abby Brewster: Debby Mathews

Martha Brewster: Sylvia Pancake

Mortimer Brewster: Michael Boynton

Teddy Brewster: Mike Stedham

Jonathan Brewster: Glenn Davenport

Elaine Harper: Hannah Culpepper

Dr. Einstein: Cory Van Ekris

Officer Brophy: Dani Ratliff

Officer Klein: Stuart Henderson

The Rev. Dr. Harper: Chris Colvard

Lt. Rooney: Darrell Farmer

Dr. Witherspoon: Howard Johnson

Officer O’Hara: Brian Jones

Gibbs: Gene Black

Spring garden symposium at Longleaf

“He who plants a garden plants happiness.” — Chinese proverb

True enough, but maintaining a garden can be overwhelming at times. With the theme “Mind, Body and Garden,” Longleaf Botanical Gardens offers a symposium March 15 in Longleaf Hall that addresses, by speakers, the issues of landscape and gardens and how these places can be healing and relaxing.

“The symposium should be helpful both to those new and seasoned in gardening,” said Hayes Jackson, director of Longleaf Botanical Gardens.

Here is the schedule:

8:30 a.m.: Registration and vendor shopping for plants and other plant related items.

9:15 a.m.: Sherry Blanton, The Anniston Star’s The Southern Gardener, “Gardening Smarter, Not Harder.”

10 a.m.: Mike Rushing, Jefferson County Master Gardener Class of 2007, Birmingham Botanical Gardens Japanese Garden Volunteer (one of “the docs”), teaches Master Gardener survey course on trees and shrubs, “Aging in the Garden: Coping with Your Garden as You and Your Garden Mature.”

11:15 a.m.: Lori Corley, deputy director of East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, directs the Area Agency on Aging, “Aging Gracefully, It’s a Matter of Balance.”

1 p.m.: Patricia Patty, past president of Alabama Master Gardener Association, and Hayes Jackson, Longleaf Botanical Gardens director and urban agent with Alabama Cooperative Extension, “Tools and Tips for the Wiser Gardener.”

1:30 p.m.: Julie Brown, local yoga instructor, “Yoga in the Garden.”

2:15 p.m.: Hayes Jackson, “Long-lived Plants that Thrive on Neglect.”

To reserve a spot, call the Anniston Museum of Natural History at 256-237-6766. Reservations are required, and if made by March 8, a box lunch will be included in the cost.

Cost is $25 for members and $30 for nonmembers. Payment is to be made at the time of registration and may be made by cash, check (made payable to Longleaf Botanical Gardens and earmarked for educational programs) or charge card in person or by phone.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.