MyNicolet  |  Blackboard  |  Directory  |  Email  |  LibraryContact


Arsenic and Old Lace

By Joseph Kesserling
Directed by Jim Nuttall


Monday and Tuesday, March 13 and 14
7 pm
Nicolet College Theatre, Rhinelander

The Story

In a classic comedy where kindness kills, Abby and Martha Brewster are known for their virtues and charitable acts. But the sweet sisters have taken on another project as well - befriending lonely older gentlemen and then poisoning them with arsenic-laced elderberry wine. When the sisters' nephew Mortimer comes home for a visit, his aunts' misdeeds and the schemes of his insane brothers are uncovered. Murder seems to be the family's M.O., and the frantic Mortimer may drive himself crazy scrambling to cover up the crimes and keep everyone from serving time.

Read the Complete Utah Shakespeare Festival Study Guide 


This play has a large cast with many male roles that may be adapted for females. The ages are approximate and can also be shifted.

- Abby Brewster: A darling lady in her sixties who poisons elderly men. Abby is the sister of Martha and an aunt to Teddy, Jonathan, and Mortimer.

- The Rev. Dr. Harper: Minister and father of Elaine.

- Teddy Brewster: Nephew of Abby and Martha Brewster. Teddy is a man in his forties who thinks that he is Theodore Roosevelt.

- Officer Brophy: A police officer.

- Officer Klein: A police officer.

- Martha Brewster: A sweet elderly woman with Victorian charm who poisons elderly men. Martha is the sister of Abby and an aunt to Teddy, Jonathan, and Mortimer.

- Elaine Harper: An attractive girl in her twenties and Mortimer’s fiancée. Elaine is the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Harper. She is surprisingly wise in the ways of the world for a minister's daughter.

-Mortimer Brewster: Nephew of Abby and Martha, Mortimer is a drama critic who is engaged to Elaine. He is a nice man who cares for his aunts.

- Mr. Gibbs: A man who wishes to rent a room from the Brewster sisters.

- Jonathan Brewster: Nephew of Abby and Martha Brewster. Jonathan is a psychopath who has had plastic surgery and now looks like Boris Karloff.

- Dr. Einstein: A plastic surgeon and an alcoholic who is in his fifties. Dr. Einstein has changed Jonathan's face three times.

- Officer O'Hara: A police officer. O’Hara is a would-be playwright who pesters Mortimer to read his play.

- Lieutenant Rooney: A tough and dominating police officer.

- Mr. Witherspoon: The superintendent of Happy Dale Sanitarium.     

Audition Information          

Auditions will consist of readings from short sections of the script, repeated several times until all auditioning have had several chances to read. As always, everyone is welcome; you do not need to be a student at Nicolet or have any previous experience in acting to be in the cast. No preparation is required, although actors are best prepared if they have read the script beforehand.  You only need to audition on one of the two nights (though many actors choose to attend both).

Please bring your calendars to indicate any conflicts you may have for rehearsals.  

Note: There is a relatively famous movie out there, don’t watch it – it’s hard to get those performances out of your head once you’ve seen it. No one wants to see a play with actors trying to imitate Cary Grant or Peter Lorre, and no director will cast anyone trying to mimic them.

Rehearsal Details

Cast members must be available for all rehearsals (March 15 - May 5). Rehearsals will run from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Schedule conflicts may be worked around if there aren’t too many.  Actors only need to be at rehearsal for the scenes they are in, and will have nights off for the scenes they aren’t in. During the last weeks before the play opens, everyone will need to attend all rehearsals to rehearse acts, and finally full runs of the entire play the week before opening.

Performances will be held:

Friday - Sunday, May 5 - 7;
Thursday - Sunday,  May 11 - 14
7:30 pm (2 pm on Sundays)

Further Information

Scripts are available for a three day checkout from the Richard J. Brown Library, located in the Lakeside Center at Nicolet College in Rhinelander.

Questions? Contact Jim Nuttall at 715-365-4476 or


Nicolet Live!