ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Barley Sheaf Offers Thrills, Kills, and Lots of Laughs

by Patricia Bradford

Be warned if you happen to pass by the Barley Sheaf Players in Lionville this spring. Word has it that there’s a murderer on the loose! At least there is in the Players’ spring show, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, set to open on April 21st. Audiences can expect a lot of death and dark humor from this comedic play centering on the very quirky Brewster family.

First, we have sisters Abby and Martha, who rent out rooms in their Gothic Victorian home to boarders, many of whom happen to be lonely old men with no families. Martha and Abby have three nephews. Teddy thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt. Jonathan has had multiple plastic surgeries so that he can look like Boris Karloff. Mortimer, thankfully, is relatively “normal,” and he can’t wait to announce his engagement to the lovely Elaine to his aunts. When he discovers a dead body in the family home, his excitement quickly turns to panic, and we’re treated to many twists, turns, and belly laughs as mayhem breaks loose in the quest to figure out whodunit.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is probably best known for its 1944 film adaptation, which starred Cary Grant as Mortimer. The original Broadway production ran for 1,444 performances from 1941 to 1944 and was hailed by The New York Times as “so funny that none of us will ever forget it.” Interestingly, Boris Karloff actually played the role of Jonathan in the original Broadway run. Karloff would later reprise the role for the 1955 and 1962 television adaptations of the play. The show was most recently revived in a joint production by the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster and the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in 2014.

For director Amanda Frangoulis, bringing ARSENIC AND OLD LACE to the Barley Sheaf stage has been “a dream.” She has loved the show ever since she was fortunate enough to play the role of Martha in 2010, and she fell in love with the characters and the script. The Barley Sheaf Players also have the advantage of being able to stage this play in a historic building – their theater is the former Oddfellows Hall and radiates with the charm of an old historic home. Audiences will be able to feel the spirit of the show from the moment they arrive.

The play is set in Brooklyn in 1941. Anyone familiar with that time period will especially love the “pop culture” and historical references from the time, which have been woven seamlessly into the script by author Joseph Kesselring. Ms. Frangoulis also warned that audiences should come prepared to laugh. A lot.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE opens April 21st and runs through May 6th. Shows are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, with a special 2pm matinee on Sunday, April 30th. Tickets are $17 for adults, and $13 for those under 18 or over 60. Tickets can be reserved online at or by calling the box office at 610-363-7075. The Barley Sheaf Players are located at 810 North Whitford Road in Lionville.

Press release by Doug Schultz
Photo by Katie Farnum

Theater/Organization The Barley Sheaf Players
Theater/Organization Website:

Theater/Organization Address: 810 N. Whitford Road Lionville, Pennsylvania 19353 (Map It)
Theater/Organization Phone: (610) 363-7075

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