Bodies in the Cellar 

Classic comedy/mystery opens CAN-ACT season in Nampa

There's something about Arsenic and Old Lace that makes community theaters want to revive it every few years. Maybe it's the sweetness and innocence of the dotty old Brewster sisters; maybe it's the plot's implausibility, or the frantic agitation of the smug drama critic, Mortimer. Or maybe it's because it takes us back to an earlier candlelit age, before A-bombs and 9/11, when all we had to worry about was homicidal maniacs with bodies in the basement.

The industrious Nampa theater group, CAN-ACT, is offering this comedy for two more weekends, under the direction of Tracey Calascione. She is a triple threat. Besides directing, she designed and built the set (with hubby Tim), and arranged the costumes and props. Her set is a jewel, reflecting the gracious Victorian age to which the Brewster sisters cling, with old-time pictures on the walls, window seat, fussy bric-a-brac and a handsome fireplace.

The cast fits perfectly into this setting. Sisters, Abby (Joni Cordell) and Martha (Deede Vickers) putter around, doling out soup to ailing neighbors, visiting with the minister's wife and caring for their mentally disturbed but harmless nephew, Teddy (Rodney Horn).

Cordell is a no-nonsense Abby, with great projection and energy. As Martha, Vickers is sweet and subdued, obviously overshadowed by Abby. Their nephew, who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, is played with "bully" swagger by Rodney Horn, striding about in his dressing gown with a sword on his belt. He is hilarious when he dons a pith helmet for his African safari, or charges up the stairs as San Juan Hill, but the bugle he toots is a barely audible recording that wouldn't disturb resident mice, let alone the neighbors and police.

Mortimer is played by Shak Kuzmic, who not only radiates boyish charm, but also has a wildly expressive face that he puts to good use as the plot thickens. His relationship with his sweet fiancee, Elaine (Aubrey Vickers), is frantic and hilarious.

The third Brewster nephew is Jonathan, who supposedly looks like Boris Karloff (trouble here if younger audiences don't know who Karloff is). Todd King, whose resonant voice and threatening demeanor are perfect for the evil Jonathan, certainly wouldn't frighten anyone with his looks. He's good-looking and a few faint fake stitches on his face hardly turn him into a monster. His cohort, Dr. Einstein, is played in whispery Peter Lorre fashion by "Garr" Garmire. Garmire has a fine comic sense and knows how to make his fear of Jonathan amusing.

Other players in this large 12-person cast add to the confusion and fun.

The main problems with this show are the glacial pace and the uncertainty with lines. There are awkward pauses, hasty looks around and characters even calling people by the wrong name. With one or two more weeks of rehearsals, cues might be picked up faster and the pace peppier. A little more snap in the dialogue could disguise the silliness of the plot.

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