Showcase: A case of classic murders

By Sangeeeta Barooah Pisharoty, april 7, 2012, The Hindu

When Joseph Kesselring’s play “Arsenic and Old Lace” opened in New York in 1941, it was a hit from day one. So much so that it downed curtains after a staggering four years and close to 1500 shows! Soon the play was translated into several languages and also got its celluloid versions, one in Russian too.

In Delhi, the well known Yatrik group staged the play 24 years ago, directed by actor-director Prabha Tonk. This week, Prabha is bringing the play back to Delhi under the banner of Class Apart Productions, the group she later founded with fellow theatre person Revathy Venkataraman and event manager Vandana Verma.

An excited Revathy says two actors who were part of the Yatrik production are also part of the new show. “Jacqueline Garewal and Indu Ramchandani play the two old aunts. Twenty four years ago, they were young and had to grey their hair. Now they are their natural selves.”

Indu is back as Martha Brewster who along with her sister Abby murder old men by offering them wine-like concoctions made of arsenic.

The quirky Brewster family has yet another zany member, Teddy, who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt. All these characters fill a plot thick with conspiracy and there’s many a skeleton in the cupboard (actually graves of the aunts’ victims hidden in the basement).

Teddy’s brother and drama critic, Mortimer, is in a hurry to sort out his homicidal family as he has promised his beloved he will marry her soon. Worse things are in store when he accidentally takes a few sips of the aunts’ deadly concoction. Thrown into the midst of this barmy lot is Dr. Einstein, a plastic surgeon.

Revathy says the play has not been Indianised. “A few names have been changed here and there to make them sound familiar, that’s it.”

The accent is short of being American, “but that’s okay.”

Both Prabha and Revathy are hopeful of the play’s success. “Having put 40 years of our life to theatre on the line, we can only keep our fingers crossed,” is the duo’s parting shot.

Bottomline: A black comedy that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Arsenic and Old Lace; April 8: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, at 7.30 p.m. April 14 and 15: Epicentre, Gurgaon, at 7.30 P.M. Tickets available at the venue or at

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