ARLINGTON — When Mario Mirante joined the Arlington High School Drama program, he never thought he'd be filling shoes previously occupied by movie star Cary Grant, but that's what the AHS senior will be doing when AHS Drama presents its production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" starting on Friday, Nov. 9.
"This is such a fun role," Mirante said. "It's fast and funny. I'm having a great time acting the straight man to all the goofball characters that surround me."
Mirante is playing drama critic Mortimer Brewster, a serious young man trying to decide whether he should ask the woman he loves to marry him, which is no simple question considering Brewster's unusual family.
This farcical black comedy finds Mortimer wondering if it's fair to bring his lovely fiancé into a family that includes one brother who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt, a second brother who's changed his identity with the help of a gangland plastic surgeon and now looks like a horror film actor, and two doting maiden aunts who murder lonely old men by treating them to a glass of elderberry wine served with arsenic, strychnine and just a pinch of cyanide.
"Arsenic and Old Lace" was first staged in 1941, and ran for three and a half years and more than 1,400 performances, before being adapted into a 1944 movie starring Grant and directed by Frank Capra. AHS Drama teacher Scott Moberly selected the play after spending hours upon hours thinking of the best production for his students.
"Every year we lose some talented seniors, but gain younger students who are eager to participate in our shows," Moberly said. "Every student is unique, and I select our productions based on all of their special qualities. This year, once again, I have a group of students who can handle the quick timing and sometimes deadpan deliveries that this script requires of its actors. It's a terrific play for building the skills of young actors."
Junior class veteran actresses Grace McWatters and Greyson Baden will play Aunts Abby and Martha Brewster, while fellow junior Hailey Thomas will play Mortimer's almost-fiancé Elaine Harper.
"It's quite a different experience for me to play a daffy old lady," McWatters said. "In most of the other plays I've been in, I've played a younger person. It's great to stretch and work hard to become one of Mortimer's old aunts."
The play's show dates start at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9, 10, 16 and 17. Ticket prices are $7 and $10, and may be purchased online at www.byrnesperformingarts.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door on show nights beginning at 6:30 p.m.