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Acting the part

Budding thespians take the stage at Highland Springs

Created date

July 19th, 2016
Joanne and Bill Cafiero rehearse their parts for the Drama Club’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace at Highland Springs.

Joanne and Bill Cafiero rehearse their parts for the Drama Club’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace at Highland Springs.

It had all the makings of a great murder mystery—secrets, intrigue, plot turns—but this drama wasn’t found in the pages of a book. 

The Highland Springs Drama Club brought the play Arsenic and Old Lace to life during a recent Sunday evening performance at the North Dallas Erickson Living community.

This year’s production marked the second time the Drama Club has taken on Arsenic and Old Lace.

“We performed the play for the first time in 2010 in a radio show format,” says Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator and director of the Drama Club. “This time around, we added more movement and sound effects.”

Four Drama Club members wrote a sound effects script they inserted into the dialogue. Sue Bullock, Jo Arata, Pat Green, and Jane Strange used household objects to mimic a door creaking or footsteps moving across the stage.

Brewster family shenanigans

Arsenic and Old Lace tells the story of Mortimer Brewster and his two lovable, if eccentric, aunts—Martha and Abby. Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in a window seat and discovers that his aunts are serving lonely bachelors elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and a touch of cyanide to put them out of their supposed misery.

Mortimer’s brother Teddy lives with the aunts and believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy disposes of the bodies in the basement, where he thinks he’s digging locks for the Panama Canal and burying yellow fever victims.

Highland Springs residents filled Chisholm’s Restaurant in the Hillcrest Clubhouse to see the Drama Club bring the tale to the stage, although the biggest laugh of the evening was reserved for an unscripted moment.

Eldora Chambers, who played Martha Brewster, made a surprise offer at the conclusion of the performance.

“If there are any lonely men at Highland Springs, why don’t you contact me and we’ll have elderberry wine?” propositioned Eldora.

Shared experience

Bill and Joanne Cafiero moved to Highland Springs from their home in Richardson three years ago. 

Although neither of them had any acting experience, they felt joining the Drama Club was an experience they could enjoy together.

“Members of the Drama Club always looked liked they were having fun, and it turns out they were,” says Bill, a retired business consultant for General Electric.

In Arsenic and Old Lace, Bill played Mortimer Brewster, a role made famous by Cary Grant in the 1944 film version of the play.

Bill says he didn’t channel his inner Cary Grant to play the role because he hasn’t seen the movie.

“Bill’s charm just comes naturally,” adds Joanne with a laugh.

For the Highland Springs production, Joanne played Elaine Harper, Mortimer’s love interest, and the two shared an onstage kiss that earned them some good-natured ribbing from residents.

“We have so much fun participating in the Drama Club productions,” says Joanne, a retired nurse. “There’s more to do at Highland Springs than you can imagine. You have to find your niche. For us, this is something we enjoy.”