The Internet, poisoned wine and two sweet old ladies all have a place in the dark comedy “Arsenic and Odd Lace,” which is being presented through April 1 as the spring production of Fitchburg State’s English and Industrial Technology departments.
FSU senior CJ Mulhern is part of the cast, and he provided the answers for an FAQ about the production and his role in it.
What is ‘Arsenic and Odd Lace’ about, and what role do you play?
“Arsenic and Odd Lace” is a slight adaption of the play “Arsenic and Old Lace.” The play is about the discovery of a dead body and the insanity that follows. It involves one family and I play the youngest member of the family, Mortimer Brewster.
What can the audience expect in this dark comedy?
The play starts off very lighthearted and playful, but soon travels into dark territory. Once established, the dark and comedic scenarios ensue. People can expect a very serious subject matter with strong values, emotion and moral integrity – and some very funny [albeit] disturbing scenes.
Does your previous experience acting as Benvolio in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ come into play here?
Not much of Benvolio is really used in this show – if anything, it’s more the opposite. Benvolio’s character, and his jokes, are very lighthearted for most of the show with only one serious portion. Mortimer, on the other hand, is serious throughout the play, which amplifies the dark themes. In the beginning of the play Mortimer is very different from where he ends up, so this role allowed me to play with two distinct emotions for one character.
How often did you rehearse and what was the process like?
Five to six times per week – it sounds like a lot, but after the initial week they fly by because everyone starts knowing their lines and stage directions. The show really starts to come together once everyone is on the same page and learns their roles – and we have a lot more fun as a unit.
What is the most exciting aspect of performing in a production like this?
The most exciting part is to try a new character, especially one as interesting as Mortimer. Being surrounded by a lot of my friends who are amazing people and actors is a bonus because they inspire me to be better.
If there is one thing you want people to know about ‘Arsenic,’ what is it?
The most unique feature of theater is no show is ever alike, and no adaptation is performed exactly like the play’s text. People should come to see what separates our “Arsenic” from the original “Arsenic.” I gave you two things: You’re welcome.
How do you respond to people saying “break a leg?”
A little hurt they wish harm upon me, but obliged and say thanks, anyway.
“Arsenic and Odd Lace” is being performed in the McKay Theater in the McKay Campus School, 67 Rindge Road. A preview performance will be held tonight at 6.
Performances will continue Thursday, March 29 through Saturday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m., with a final matinee performance on Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m.
Admission is free.