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Jayne Luke shines in 'Arsenic and Old Lace'

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

The Brewster sisters, played by Karen Baird and Jayne Luke, from left, offer their own brand of elderberry wine to gentlemen guests in their home in "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Pete Widtfeldt

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, Hale Center Theater Orem, directed by Laurie Harrop-Purser, through Sept. 22, 801-226-8600; running time, 2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission

OREM — Jayne Luke is a shining gift to the most recent production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Hale Center Theater Orem.

She has a deliciously wicked grin, an artless air and a wonderful mincing little walk as she plays the role of Abby Brewster, one of the elderly sisters in this show about misplaced charity and family secrets.

Luke took on the role after the death of Maureen Eastwood who had played Aunt Abby in two earlier productions of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Alongside Luke is Karen Baird, playing Martha Brewster, and Jon Liddiard, playing their brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt.

Liddiard is an Equity actor who makes the role of "Teddy" human and entertaining without making the character completely silly.

Jason Purdie, who plays Dr. Einstein, is another bright light. He adds all kinds of facial expressions, gestures and movement that bring wonderful added comic relief to a show about charitable murder on the part of the sisters and some dark doings on the part of Jonathan Brewster (played by Daniel Hess).

The show overall is hilarious with great one-liners and lots of delicious dilemma as Mortimer Brewster (played on opening night by Brett Merritt) tries to understand his aunt's behavior.

They have no compunction about burying their gentlemen friends in the home's cellar but cannot abide adding a Methodist done in by their scary nephew.

They're sweet, gentle ladies blessed with just a touch of madness.

The policemen in the story cannot see them as lawbreakers, and ultimately things work out for them but not without considerable stress for Mortimer (who dares to hold down a job as a drama critic — "Somebody has to do it!" and "Don't worry. Theater won't last!").

It's also a show built with layers in the script that poke fun at theater, the police and relationships as it explores the bizarre story of the Brewster family.

As is usual, Hale seamstresses have created beautiful costumes with plenty of old lace for the Brewster sisters and the set is a house full of antiques, wallpaper and Victorian furniture.

It's well-done throughout.

Only a couple of the actors seemed to need a little more time with their lines.

Also, bear in mind that this show takes some time gathering speed. The first act is 90 minutes with some slower parts, while the second act rolls along like a train on the track.

Hang on for the real fun.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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