Maple Ridge school stages Arsenic & Old Lace
Manya Edwardson and Sara Ralph literally trip over each others words, complete each other’s sentences.
Far from being a problem, the tripping and melding of words is perfect for their latest role.
Cast as the Brewster sisters in Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace, the 17-year-olds are having no trouble faking a familial bond.
“We are best friends,” say the Grade 12 students at Thomas Haney – together.
Edwardson, who plays Martha, and Ralph, who plays Abby, were thrilled when they learned they’d been picked for the parts.
“I remember going to the call board and seeing our names. We were jumping up and down,” says Ralph.
A clever combination of the farcical and the macabre, Arsenic and Old Lace centres on two elderly sisters who are famous in their Brooklyn neighbourhood for their numerous acts of charity.
Unfortunately, however, their charity includes poisoning lonely old men who come to their home looking for lodging by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic.
To play the part of seniors, Edwardson and Ralph have had to dial back their teenage spunk and are mimicking the mannerism of granny from Tweety cartoons.
Edwardson says you have to walk slower, sit dainty, be poised.
It also helps having a best friend to rehearse and learn your lines with. Ralph agrees.
“It is definitely a lot easier to rehearse with somebody who is already a close friend,” she says. “We see each other every day.”
Edwardson pipes in “there is good chemistry.”
The Brewster sisters are assisted in their crimes by their mentally challenged nephew who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and who frequently blasts a bugle and yells ‘‘charge’’ as he bounds up the stairs.
Matters get complicated when a second nephew, a theatre critic, discovers the murders and a third nephew appears after having just escaped from a mental institution.
Alex Hyde, who plays Teddy, is relishing his role as the insane nephew.
“He is convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt and nobody can convince him otherwise,” explains Hyde, who didn’t have to look far for comic inspiration.
While researching his role, the Grade 11 student learned a lot about the 26th president of the United States.
A fiery individualist, Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech and carried on with the delivery. He also had a pet bear named Jonathan.
“He was a bad ass,” says Hyde.
“He did crazy stuff that now would seem completely out there. He had a pet bear – that is awesome.”
Unlike her cast mates who are seemingly comfortable in their homicidal roles, Erica Ford is still settling into her part as Mortimer’s fiancée.
Elaine Harper is the proverbial girl next door, having grown up in the parsonage next to Mortimer’s crazy aunts.
Mortimer tries to hide his aunts murderous tendencies throughout the play.
“He’s always like something terrible happen, but I can’t tell you so you just need to go away,” explains Ford. “She is not going to take no for an answer.”
Ford is now perfecting the tiny things that will make her on-stage relationship believable.
It’s not easy as you think, she says, lamenting a rehearsal two weeks ago where she and Mortimer, played by Aaron Ford (no relation), practised their first kiss.
“It was awful. It was a totally miss,” Ford says with a scowl.
“I think it was my fault. We are starting to get comfortable with each other but getting there sometimes is a little awkward.”
Arsenic and Old Lace opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 and Friday, Feb. 10 at Thomas Haney’s Sightlines Theatre. There is a matinée show on Valentine’s Day - Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. and two more shows at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17. Tickets for the show are $6 for students and seniors and $8 for adults. To reserve, call 604-463-2001. Sightlines Theatre is located at 23000 116th Avenue in Maple Ridge.