Tuesday, November 8, 2022

A Taste of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at The REP

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.


Arsenic and Old Lace playing now through November 20.
Photo courtesy of The REP.
The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players (REP) kicks off its 2022-23 season with the great American farcical black comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring.

This enduring play, originally staged on Broadway in 1941, continues to astound audiences with its ingenious and brilliant construction. The current production at the REP carries on the grand tradition of the show and entertains from opening curtain to curtain call.

“Some of you may have heard the pandemic radio version of the play and now you can see the real thing. It’s about two older women that relieve older gentleman of their loneliness by killing them with arsenic. You can think of it as a euthanasia comedy.”
— Steve Tague, the REP's new Interim Producing Artistic Director.

The show revolves around the odd members of the Brewster family in their stately Brooklyn home. Mortimer Brewster (Mic Matarrese) is living a happy life in the large old mansion. He has a good job as a drama critic at a prominent New York newspaper and he’s just become engaged to his neighbor Elaine Harper (Erin Partin). His spinster aunts Abby (Kathleen Pirkl Tague) and Martha (Elizabeth Heflin) dote on him and are adored by the community. They even look after and protect Mortimer’s quirky brother Teddy (Lee E. Ernst) who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt.

Mortimer’s world is turned upside down when he discovers that his dear aunts have been quietly poisoning lonely old men and burying them in the basement for years. Aside from this new revelation, long lost maniacal brother Jonathan (Stephen Pelinski) returns on the night that the aunts are planning to bury their newest victim. His somewhat unwilling partner Dr. Einstein (Michael Gotch) adds ghoulish layers to Jonathan’s mysterious past. Mortimer must rally to help his aunts, foil his brother’s nefarious plans, and protect his fiancĂ© – all while trying to maintain his own sanity. Even the local cops (Rob Hancock and John Plumpis) become part of the action, both good and bad; albeit unwittingly. Put it this way, the plot is always swirling… As Abby Brewster says, “How delicious!”

The beautiful set design and construction is the first thing that catches the eye upon entering the theater. It is a wonder of planning and carpentry that includes fine wooden details, wallpaper, portraits, animal heads, and doors…so many doors. Kudos to Stefanie Hansen and her crew.

The actors all shine, but the menace is real when Pelinski’s Jonathan looms on stage. Matarrese does a great job of looking peaceful one minute and utterly distressed the next. His physical and mental exhaustion from the escapades he faces puts the audience on his side. 

The show is funny throughout, but the comedic highlights mostly happen in the second act with many quick and clever jokes. Aunts Abby and Martha (Heflin and Tague) always aim to please and drop some great deadpan one-liners while doing so. The old women just want what’s best for everyone they meet, even believing that serving their killer elderberry wine is a neighborly service. It is, but solely for our entertainment!

My suggestion is to plan an evening out in Newark to enjoy some great theater, but watch out for the apparent kindness of elderly female strangers.

Arsenic and Old Lace will run through November 20 at Thompson Theatre inside the Roselle Center for the Arts (CFA) on the campus of the University of Delaware. Evening shows start at 7:30 and curtain is at 2 for matinees. The performance runs approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, with two 10-minute intermissions. 

Tickets ($35-39) can be purchased at the theatre box office or online. Please call the box office at (302) 831-2204 or e-mail cfa-boxoffice@udel.edu for information. 

For more information, visit www.rep.udel.edu.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Pamelyn Manocchio Takes Over to Lead The Grand Opera House

The content of this post comes from a previous press release from The Grand Opera House...

Brian DiSabatino, chairman of The Grand Opera House, announced that the Board of Directors has appointed Pamelyn Manocchio as the performing arts center’s next Executive Director.

“We are delighted that Pam is taking the helm at the beginning of a new, post-COVID era in the life of The Grand and the arts in Wilmington,” said DiSabatino. “As a long-time senior staff leader, she will provide a measure of continuity and institutional familiarity." DiSabatino noted that Manocchio has demonstrated creativity and innovation in her previous role(s) with The Grand, and that they are looking forward to new ideas and new energy from her and the organization as she takes the helm this fall.

After Fields announced his retirement, the Board and its executive committee met promptly to develop a transition plan, and it reached a quick consensus on the best course of action. DiSabatino explained, “the Board felt there was no reason to conduct a search regionally or nationally when it has the talent it needs on staff already.”

“I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to take on this leadership role for The Grand,” said Manocchio. “Having worked side by side with both Mark Fields and Steve Bailey over the past 16 years, I feel well-prepared to guide this institution into its next chapter. We have lots of room to grow in our community, and we’ll do so in the most impactful and creative ways imaginable.”

“I’m very excited to continue working with the incredible team that’s in place here. We have an amazing board, dedicated Show Corps, passionate Trustees, and the most talented staff and crew – not to mention our wonderful patrons and donors. It’s going to be a lot of work ahead, and a lot of fun!”

Manocchio first came to The Grand in 2006 as Director of Development and segued into the role of Director of Community Engagement in 2009. In that position, she oversaw all of The Grand’s outreach and education programs with the community, including Stages of Discovery (school matinees), Summer Explorers, and The Grand Galleries (rotating visual art exhibitions). These programs serve more than 30,000 youth and adults annually.

She also launched several impactful new programs including Summer in the Parks, celebrating 10 years of arts programing in partnership with the City of Wilmington, and sensory-friendly performances specifically designed to serve children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. The Sensory Friendly program twice received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a visit from then-NEA Director Mary Anne Carter in 2019 to learn more about the innovative program.

She was named Managing Director in Fall 2021 when Steve Bailey stepped away from that position.

In addition to Manocchio’s work at The Grand, she has held leadership positions with several arts-related organizations in the state, including the Delaware Arts Alliance, the Arts Consortium of Delaware, and the Arts-Culture-Heritage collective.

Prior to her Grand tenure, Manocchio had worked in development positions for The Curtis Institute of Music, American Symphony Orchestra League, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

Manocchio holds a BM in Music Management from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. She also trained as a classical flutist, and keeps up her musical side as leader of her church’s bell choir. She lives in North Wilmington with her husband Steve, who also works in the arts, and enjoys an active life with their two teenage children.

For more information about The Grand, visit TheGrandWilmington.org.