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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol 7, No. 5 June 21, 1944

Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace

Only four plays in the history of the American stage have had longer runs than Arsenic and Old Lace, which was performed this week in Wellington by a Williamson company. I expect that the play would have folded up on the first night on Broadway had It opened with the current cast. The play is a good one; it suffered a great deal in their hands. The story must be well-known now: two charming but daffy old ladies assist lonely old gentlemen to find surcease with fortified elderberry wine. Why such a macabre plot—that of general homicidal insanity—should so have caught the imagination of the public is somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps we as an audience think that it simply cannot happen anyway; perhaps, peeking over our shoulder at the contents of our own closets, we titter nervously; perhaps the play is just funny, after all. Certainly it is extremely amusing, though it has its overtones of horror.

Of the cast, easily the best were the two old ladies; some fine acting there. There was some good character work, too, by "Dr. Einstein" (no, not that one!), The rest of the players were pretty putrid. Lloyd Lamble, much vaunted character actor, emoted all over the shop, but he wasn't quite so bad as a perennial juvenile with dyed hair and St. Vitus' Dance named Mortimer. The only young woman in the show just stood, about and mouthed at the audience. The rest of the cast, apparently scene shifters brought on to fill in, were almost uniformly bad.

Well, New Zealanders are so starved for the legit, that they will flock in thousands to any stage presentation (viz., Extrav.). So I anticipate that the Williamson company will have a bumper season. (After all, they have some excellent plays.) But I've seen far superior amateur shows in this country.