Reconnect with the Brewster family in Village Theatre Guild's 'Arsenic and Old Lace'

  • Abby (Judith Laughlin, left) and Martha (Synoma Hays) Brewster entice Mr. Witherspoon (Gerry Gallagher) with a glass of their homemade elderberry wine in "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Village Theatre Guild. The production will open April 29.

    Abby (Judith Laughlin, left) and Martha (Synoma Hays) Brewster entice Mr. Witherspoon (Gerry Gallagher) with a glass of their homemade elderberry wine in "Arsenic and Old Lace" at Village Theatre Guild. The production will open April 29. Courtesy of David Dowell

Updated 4/19/2022 6:25 PM

Village Theatre Guild invites you into the enchanting home of sisters Abby and Martha Brewster with its production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," opening April 29 through May 21.

Joseph Kesselring's clever combination of the farcical and macabre is centered on two elderly sisters famous for their numerous acts of charity. Unfortunately, their charity includes renting rooms to lonely wayfarers who are never seen again once they enter the Brewster residence. A nephew who is convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt assists the sisters with their crimes while another nephew, a drama critic, discovers their heinous acts and a third nephew appears after having just escaped from a mental institution.


This delightful and wacky work by Kesselring was 1941's longest lasting black comedy that finally closed in mid-1944 after 1,444 performances in two New York theaters. It has become best known for its film adaptation starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.

Village Theatre Guild will close out the group's 2021-22 season with this production directed by veteran Chicago area director Jim Stahulak (Chicago) and produced by Maggie Fredricks (Glen Ellyn).

Fredricks, in her role as producer, "knew this show was going to be a challenge. As producer of more than 10 productions at Village Theatre Guild and a member for more than 30 years, I felt I could help rally the support from our members to pull all the backstage efforts together."

"And because we are such an intimate space, it will be like they are sitting in the parlor as a guest in the Brewster home," she said.

Judith Laughlin (Wheaton) plays the role of Abby and when asked what led her to audition for this show she shared, "I first played the role of Abby at Wheaton North High School … in the fall of 1971. I'm finally age appropriate and thought it would be a hoot to bookend my career with Abby."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Synoma Hays (Melrose Park) as Martha Brewster states, "I did this show previously and had a great time. I thought it would be fun to do it again." She elaborates on Kesselring's most successful script emphasizing one of those challenges mentioned by Fredricks, saying "audiences will be amazed at the space utilization for this set," which is designed by Debi Gits-Joseph (Wheaton).

Brewster nephew Teddy, played by William Smith (Bolingbrook), may elicit a surprise reaction from audience members when he bombards the stage with his comings and goings as Teddy Roosevelt and will be found to issue executive orders, troop commands, and the occasional bugle blast while charging up the home's staircase or assisting the sisters with his construction of the Panama Canal in the residence basement. Assisting the sisters, you ask? You'll have to come see the play to find out more.

Stahulak was drawn to rekindle audience delight with this classic work stating, "'Arsenic and Old Lace' is one of my favorite plays. This play is a classic gem for our audiences to see, and our talented cast has brought this dark comedy back to life for old and new audiences to enjoy."

Jody Vogel (Westmont), new to working on productions at VTG, serves as the production's assistant director and stage manager. Vogel said that, "the humor and absurdity in the play's situation stands the test of time. Most of the characters have an endearing quality in spite of their diabolical acts."


The cast of 15 for this production hales from 11 suburbs to play 14 characters. Other cast members not already mentioned include: Rich Heath (Melrose Park) as Dr. Reverend Harper; Grace Pieczynski (Mokena) as Elaine Harper; Alejandro Herrera (Willowbrook) as Mortimer; Jason Griffin (Downers Grove) as Jonathan; Robert Guziec (Naperville) as Officer Brophy; Devon Ortiz (Aurora) as Officer Klein; Scott Kelley (Schaumburg) as Mr. Gibbs and Officer O'Hara; Steve Higgins (Bloomingdale) as Lieutenant Rooney; with Dave Callahan (Naperville) and Gerry Gallagher (Wheaton) sharing the role of Mr. Witherspoon. Patrick Deering (Aurora) not only plays the role of Dr. Einstein, but is working tirelessly as set decorator and properties master to create the Brewster's Victorian home to what it would have looked like back in the 1940s.

Tickets are $22, available at or by calling the box office at (630) 469-8230.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 29 to May 21. An additional matinee performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21.

Village Theatre Guild is at 2S720 Park Blvd. near the northwest corner of Butterfield Road and Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn. Free parking is provided.

Due to the intimate theater space and adhering to previous Centers for Disease Control guidelines, Village Theatre Guild is maintaining proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and mask requirements for audiences. Visit the VTG website for more information.



Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.