Archive for September, 2012

ARSENIC & OLD LACE Has Received 2 Wonderful Reviews – Read Them Here

ARSENIC & OLD LACE has been playing to sold out audiences bringing laughter to thousands – and now critics are recognizing what a hit this classic comedy has become at PlazaCo. The Column by John Garcia and The Star Group newspapers have each published a review recommending the show. ARSENIC & OLD LACE is playing thru October 13th every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30pm and Saturday afternoons at 3pm. Read on for each of these reviews – then call and get your seats before they’re gone. 817-202-0600 or visit for reservations.

ARSENIC & OLD LACE at Plaza Theatre Company

by Elaine Plybon, Associate Theatre Critic for John Garcia’s The Column

“Overall, the show was very entertaining and the audience was enthusiastic.”

Arsenic and Old Lace is billed as a dark comedy, but the energy and lighthearted atmosphere created by the cast of Plaza Theatre Company’s production was anything but dark. The setting of the play is the Brewster family home where the two aunts of Mortimer Brewster, a local theater critic, live. Mortimer stumbles upon a dark family secret and the ensuing “madness” begins.

In Ben Phillips’ directorial debut, the play seemed to have been produced with the 1944 movie starring Cary Grant in mind. The characters, music, and pace of the show reflected the movie to near duplication. This worked at times but at the same time created the feeling of being a little too contrived.

The set, designed by JaceSon P. Barrus, was detailed and period. The set included the entire theater, with a living area, dining room, window seat, stairs, and exits to the kitchen, front door, and basement, creating the illusion of a very large home. The props designed by Tammie Phillips complemented the set well. The combination of set and props created the desired effect of taking us back in time to an early 1940s home of the two spinster aunts of Mortimer Brewster.

Sound design by G. Aaron Siler was appropriate to the illusion of recreating the movie, including a soundtrack that provided sinister tones when necessary. Costume design by Kara Barnes was exceptionally good. Each character had period costumes which had a crisp look to them. One odd costume choice was when Elaine wore the same clothes for two days in a row. This would not be a likely situation in the 1940s, when women dressed up for evenings out and wore an entirely different sort of dress for daytime.

Before the play opened, the audience was warned, almost apologetically, that the first two acts would take about two hours and the third act, after intermission, would only be a half hour. During the first act, it seemed as though the cast was encouraged to deliver their lines as quickly as possible. As the play progressed, this problem lessened to an extent and the show was more enjoyable.

The standout performances of the evening were those of the two spinster aunts. JoAnn Gracey portrayed Abby Brewster with a sweet naiveté. Who wouldn’t want to give Aunt Abby a hug? Martha Brewster, played by Katy Wood, came across as a more sensible, but equally adorable, woman who could hold her own against any threat. Wood’s portrayal always came across as natural. Both actresses created characters that were easy to fall in love with, despite the situation they had created.

Also of note was the portrayal of Jonathan Brewster by Michael Rudd. Although his Boris Karloff voice and demeanor were sometimes distracting, his portrayal of the most sinister member of the Brewster clan was consistent, believable, and appropriately chilling.

Stephen Singleton made a valiant effort to simulate Cary Grant’s performance of Mortimer Brewster. Occasionally his movements came off as affected, but Cary Grant’s performance in the movie was very similar, so the performance was as expected. Some of the most comical moments of the evening were the result of interactions between Singleton and other cast members.

Michael Lain’s performance as Teddy Brewster, the brother who thought he was Teddy Roosevelt, was fun and convincing. Unfortunately, the script does not have Teddy on stage enough to thoroughly enjoy the nuances of this character.

Tyler Cox played the accomplice, Dr. Einstein, convincingly, although his German accent was absent through most, but not all, of the show. Still, his portrayal was entertaining and convincing. Had it not been for the references to his German accent in the script, the audience may not have realized it was missing.

Overall, the show was very entertaining and the audience was enthusiastic. It is sometimes difficult to pull off a dark comedy with situations such as this one – there are dead bodies, after all – but this production pulled it off and is worth the watch.

Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN


This ‘Arsenic’ is Fun to Swallow

by Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers

“This is a funny, funny evening at one of the best community theaters in the state. See it.”

There’s nothing funny about death by poison unless it’s from arsenic in the elderberry wine served up by two old, well-meaning spinsters.
Then it’s hilarious.

That’s why it’s easy to swallow the madcap mixture of four gullible cops, three estranged brothers and their two aunts into one great evening of fun at the Plaza Theatre Company’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Some PTC veterans are in the cast — Joann Gracey as Abby Brewster and Katy Wood as Martha Brewster are outstanding, as are Michael Lain as Teddy Brewster, Stephen Singleton as Mortimer Brewster, Luke Hunt (in his 16th Plaza production) as Officer O’Hara and the venerable Jay Cornils (playing three parts in this, his 30th production between PTC and Carnegie Players) — but two newcomers also shine.

The first is Michael Rudd, with the ink still wet on his theatre arts degree from Texas Wesleyan, who nails the menacing meanness of sinister brother Jonathan Brewster.
He’s smooth, confident and calms the audience with his control. Let’s hope this is the first of many more appearances on the PTC stage.

The other is Joshua resident Amy Wolf Sorter, making her PTC debut as police Lt. Rooney, who walks right in to the  final scenes and takes over with just the right amount of “there can’t be 12 bodies in the basement” bemused swagger.
An experienced actor and playwright from Chicago, I expect to see Sorter on the PTC stage again and again.

As always, it’s not just those on PTC 160-seat theater-in-the-round stage who make the PTC experience a good one, it’s also the talent behind the scenes.

A starring role is played by the set, the living room of a 1930s Brooklyn, N.Y., mansion, designed by PTC cofounder JaceSon P. Barrus, who uses the theater’s four entrances/exits, and the audiences’ imagination, to the max. And real candles, too.

“Also starring” arethe costumes of Kara Barnes and the stage management of Emily Warwick, whose timing with actors and lights must be split-second accurate to make many scenes work.

And kudos to PTC co-founder G. Aaron Siler for the sound. The paste-on face microphones, so unpredictable in “Forever Plaid,” deliver a quality sound this time.

If perhaps you haven’t seen Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 play, either as one of the most produced community theatres presentation in the country, or the 1944 movie starring Cary Grant, here’s a quick summary of this classic:

Sisters Abby and Martha Brewster are sweet, old aunties to three brothers — newspaper theater critic Mortimer, who wants to marry the pastor’s daughter wholives next door; loony Teddy, who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt, blowing his bugle as he charges upstairs (his San Juan Hill); and Jonathan, who just escaped from a prison for the criminally insane in Indiana and arrives with his so-called plastic surgeon, the very-German Dr. Einstein and a corpse.

The ersatz doctor has so botched a new face job on Jonathan that he looks like a monster.
The Brewster sisters rent rooms in the spacious house to lonely gentlemen. When one dies of a heart attack and the women see the peace on his face, they consider it their Christian calling to help other widowed gentlemen find the same peace, assisted along by their arsenic-laced elderberry wine.

Having no clue that what they are doing is wrong, they convince crazy Teddy that the men died from yellow fever and for him to bury them in the basement, which he does by thinking he is digging the Panama Canal.

By the time Mortimer discovers what is going on — in some very funny classic double-takes involving a body-length window seat — there are already 12 bodies in the basement, a fact he must hide from his fiancée, Elaine Harper, smartly played by Sara Blair, another PTC rookie and current Texas Wesleyan theater student.

Mortimer (Singleton) flies from one side of the set to the other as he attempts to keep Elaine from finding out what his aunts are doing and walking away from the engagement, keeping his aunts from discovery by the police, who constantly drop by in response to the neighbor’s complaints of Teddy’s midnight bugle blasts, and keeping himself and the aunts safe from mean Jonathan who wants to turn the mansion into a haven or criminals.
All this in one 24-hour period.

It’s not just the dialogue that is funny, there is a lot of physical comedy, too, pulled off with perfect timing by Singleton, Rudd and Tyler Cox, who gives Einstein the just-right flavor of someone who unwillingly complies with Jonathan’s orders.

Leave it to PTC to be bring today’s news into this decades-old play.

Listen as Hunt’s character, a wannabe playwright who has been a cop for 12 years while waiting for a his big break, bores everyone to sleep with the details of his script.
As the stage lights are out, Hunt describes a traffic stop where the woman driver won’t surrender her driver’s license and complains of having a bladder problem. The audience howls, but then they already had been from the opening scene.

The entire ensemble is pulled together by Ben Phillips, who PTC regulars have seen on stage many times, most recently as Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls,” but here makes his directorial debut. Even with the skills of the veterans and the talents of the newcomers, “Arsenic” has the potential for the wheels to come off quickly if the timing of a sarcastic reply is off, a pratfall misfires or someone is out of place in a group scene.

And then there’s Cornils, playing three parts — Elaine’s father, Mr. Harper; Mr. Gibbs, who wants to rent a room but is scared away; and Mr. Witherspoon, the asylum director who may or may not be the sister’s final victim. The audience accepts Cornils in each role without confusion, he is simply that good.

John Lewis and Nathan Glenn, as police officers Klein and Brophy, add continuity to the entire day as they play into the hands of the sisters.

This is a funny, funny evening at one of the best community theaters in the state. See it.

With a 90-minute Act I and a 30-minute Act II, “Arsenic and Old Lace” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 13 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St., in Cleburne.

Tickets — $15 for adults, $13 for seniors age 65-plus and students, $13 for high school and college and $12 for children age 12 and under — are on sale from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday thru Saturday at the box office, or by phone at 817-202-0600 or online at

Plaza Theatre Company’s Cast List for A CHRISTMAS CAROL – 2012

This is the official Cast List for Plaza Theatre Company’s 2012 production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The show will play from November 23rd thru December 22nd, rehearsals will begin October 6th. The play is under the direction of JaceSon and Tina Barrus with Musical Direction by Soni Barrus, Choreography by Tabitha Barrus, Assistant Direction by Daniel Robinson and Stage Management by Stefanie Glenn. It will be Plaza Theatre Company’s 59th production. The cast is: (double cast where noted)

A Christmas Carol 2012 – Cast List

Ebenezer Scrooge – Steven Lindsey

Charles Dickens / Scrooge’s Nephew Fred – Jonathan Metting

Jacob Marley / Old Joe – Aaron Siler

Bob Cratchit – John Lewis

Mrs. Cratchit – Emily Warwick

Tiny Tim Cratchit – Miranda Barrus

Ghost of Christmas Past / Turkey Boy – Julie Hall, Eden Barrus

Ghost of Christmas Present / Mr. Fezziwig / The Undertaker / The Poulterer – Jay Lewis

Ghost of Christmas Future / Dick Wilkins – Michael Sorter

Fred’s Wife / Poor Wife – Tina Barrus

Mrs. Fezziwig – Shauna Lewis

Elizabeth Fezziwig – Molly Morgan

Letitia Fezziwig / Martha Cratchit – Katherine Balaban

Teen Scrooge – Devlin Pollock

Young Scrooge – Austin Swearingen

Belle / Laundress – Tabitha Barrus

Charwoman / Dora – Kimberly Mickle

Charity Man 1 – Nathan Glenn

Charity Man 2 / Topper / Poor Husband – JaceSon Barrus

Topper’s Girl – Stefanie Glenn

Peter Cratchit / Boy Scrooge – Josh Cummins, Cameron Barrus

Little Fan – Emma Whitehorn, Paige Moore

Georgina – Stacey Greenawalt King

Ensemble –
Kayle Hargrove, Noelle Mitchell
Chelsea Manning,  Faith Brown
Donna Moore, Kim Hargrove
Dawn Diyer
Kennedy Styron
Justin Diyer / Ason Hargrove
Levi King

Arsenic and Old Lace Opens September 14th

We have reached the final weekend of FOREVER PLAID. There are only four more performances and seats are still available (though limited) for most nights. Give us a call at 817-202-0600 or visit to reserve.

We watched a rehearsal of Arsenic and Old Lace last night and were so excited about this classic comedy. We can’t wait to unveil it to y’all starting next Friday the 14th. Read on for the official Press Release for the show.

Plaza Theatre Company is proud to announce the opening of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE on September 14th, 2012. The production will play Plaza’s newly renovated theatre at 111 S. Main Street in Cleburne, TX opening September 14, 2012. The show will be the 57th produced by Plaza Theatre Company since it’s inception in November of 2006.

The classic play is a farcical black comedy revolving around Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and local police in Brooklyn, NY, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves. His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of homemade elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt, and a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein. Because of this streak of insanity in his family, Mortimer believes he must not marry and carry on the family line, until a late reprieve saves the day. A lively comic masterpiece.

“When you think about classic comedy, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is one of the first plays to come to mind”, says JaceSon Barrus, PlazaCo’s Artistic Director. “And the reason is simple: it’s darn funny. Memorable characters and whip-smart humor make this play one of the true gems of the theatre world.”

The Cast List for ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is: (Double Cast where noted)

Abby Brewster – JoAnn Gracey
The Rev. Dr. Harper – Jay A. Cornils
Teddy Brewster – Michael Lain
Officer Brophy – Nathan Glenn
Officer Klein – John Lewis
Martha Brewster – Katy Wood
Elaine Harper – Sara Blair
Mortimer Brewster – Stephen Singleton
Mr. Gibbs – Jay Cornils
Jonathan Brewster – Michael Rudd
Dr. Einstein – Tyler Cox
Officer O’Hara – Luke Hunt
Lieutenant Rooney – Amy Sorter
Mr. Witherspoon – J. Cornils

The production is under the Direction of Ben Phillips with Stage Management by Emily Warwick. The show will open on Friday September 14th at 7:30pm and will play every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening thru October 13th at 7:30pm with Saturday matinees every Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Ticket prices are $15 for Adults, $13 for Seniors and Students and $12 for Children.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 817-202-0600 or visiting the Plaza Box Office between the hours of 10am and 6pm Monday thru Saturday. Online reservations as well as further information is available by visiting the Plaza website at