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Auntie Maim

Actors Theatre stages an enjoyably insane production of the wacky warhorse Arsenic and Old Lace

If you assume these famous outward appearances, you had better make sure that the performances bear them out. The text calls for Roosevelt and Karloff similarities. Though he neglects to shade Teddy as the untouchable innocent he is, McDowell is quite convincing, especially with his body movements, as the would-be President who screams "Charge!" as he unleashes an imaginary sword and ascends a staircase he thinks is San Juan Hill. Flahive makes his eyes suitably monstrous, but he overuses his voice, melodramatically bellowing too much to be a wickedly delicious Karloff takeoff.

The actors playing the Cary Grant and Peter Lorre characters follow their famous film predecessors a bit too closely -- or not closely enough -- instead of offering their own take on characterizations. Dorris captures more of Grant's physical energy than his offhanded charm. And Reeves' has Lorre's breathy German down, but not his insinuating attitude. Unless one has the abilities of Rich Little, one should stay away from imitation.

But director Wilson steers everybody where they need to go. From her very appropriate nod to Gilbert and Sullivan on one of the stage walls, to how she has her actors charge off the set after curtain calls, Wilson is in complete command. Even down to the presidential outfits and Judith Anderson-esque mourning dresses.

Though the play runs a bit long at nearly three hours, Actors Theatre mounts a sturdy, professional production of a grand old play.

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