The Ascension Community Theatre’s stage has been infiltrated by the Kathys.
Kathy Sevin plays Abby Brewster and Kathy Wilson is Martha Brewster, the lovable murderous sisters in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the theater’s fall main stage production, which opens Thursday, Nov. 6.
“And we’re both Kathys with a ‘K,’ ” Sevin says.
“Which is the correct way to spell it,” Wilson adds, laughing.
The two actresses have always wanted to be onstage together.
“We’ve worked together in plays before, but one of us has always been onstage, while the other was working backstage,” Wilson says. “Now we finally have a chance to act together.”
But it gets better. They get to play the main characters, the Brewster sisters, whose benevolence includes murdering lonely old men with homemade elderberry wine laced with arsenic and strychnine. Not to mention just a pinch of cyanide.
This isn’t giving away any surprises. Joseph Kessehring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” has been around since Jan. 10, 1941.
Frank Capra directed the film version starring Cary Grant in 1944, which is still popular today.
So, lots of theater and movie fans already know the meaning behind the story’s title. For those who don’t, get ready for a night of dark, farcical comedy filled with a mixture of slapstick and wit fueled by the Brewster family, whose eccentricities are kept in check by drama critic Mortimer Brewster.
He’s the Brewster sisters’ nephew. His problems also include a murderous brother who’s had plastic surgery to evade the law and another who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt.
“What struck me about this play the last time I did it is how many people love it,” Sevin says. “I played Martha in Theatre Baton Rouge’s 2009 production, and the audience was full each night. And when we stood at the door to greet people after the play, so many people just wanted to stop and talk about how much they enjoy this play.”
Ascension Community Theatre’s production is directed by Jack Wilson, who directed it early in his career for the now defunct Baker Little Theatre.
“It was the second play I directed,” Wilson says. “I’m using the script I used for that production. It’s easier for me this time, but it’s not the same. I have a different cast, so though it’s the same story, it’s a different show.”
The space also is different. Ascension Community Theatre makes its home in Gonzales’ old Pasqua movie theater with stage space that can easily accommodate the two-story set for the Brewsters’ Victorian home.
“This is, perhaps, the best space I’ve worked in for this set,” Wilson says. “The set has to look like a rundown Victorian house, and the audience needs to see that, because it plays into the story. And we have a wonderful set here.”
The Kathys are well familiar with the play, and though Sevin played a different sister in 2009, she’s settled into her new role.
“I actually wanted to play Abby in the Theatre Baton Rouge production, because she’s out there — Martha’s more controlled,” Sevin says. “But I enjoyed playing Martha, and now I find myself sometimes saying Martha’s lines when I’m supposed to be Abby in this production.”
Wilson nods, laughing.
“She does,” Wilson says. “But we’re working it out, and we’re having fun.”
- CAST: Brooke Frost, Elaine; Casey Bundick, Mortimer; Cody Bourgeois, O’Hara; Thomas Daniel, Lt. Rooney; Michael Ruffin, Teddy; Jaime Burrow, Dr. Einstein; Kathy Wilson, Martha; Kathy Sevin, Abby; Michael Mason, Jonathan; Lorna Culmone Bourgeois, Witherspoon; Oniell Isaac, Gibbs; Mason Sanders, Brophy; Ronald Braud, Harper; Jason Ambeau Klein.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Jack Wilson, director; Markisha Bazile, assistant director.