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The Two J’s Show The Way: A Review Of Repertory Philippines' "Arsenic & Old Lace"

Written by Joseph Kesselring for Broadway in 1939, and turned into a Frank Capra classic film adaptation starring Cary Grant in 1944, the current Repertory Philippines revival of Arsenic & Old Lace shows that there’s still life in this smart comedy about murder, family, and mayhem. Running from April 6 to the 29th, one must rush to watch this entertaining play, as it’s a sterling example of why the classics can stand the test of time. And why two veteran actresses can still be said to be at the top of their game. Joy Virata and Jay Valencia Glorioso, you two women still rock, and rule!

 

 

As the two Brewster sisters who live in 1930’s Brooklyn, Joy & Jay are equally magnificent as the scheming, plainly murderous but innocent, matronly siblings. Letting the rooms in their spacious home for rent, they find lonely men without family as ripe pickings for the altruistic, charitable task of ‘helping them on their way’. The premise and reveal of just what exactly is going on in this genteel household is still a hoot, and source of delicious irony and mirth.

 

 

Jeremy Domingo, Nelsito Gomez in the Cary Grant role, and Apollo Abraham take on the other members of the Brewster family, nephews of the two sisters. The likes of Gabe Mercado, Robbie Guevara (taking on the role portrayed by Peter Lorre in the film), and Barbara Jance all provide more than able support; but I have to confess there’s a special magic created whenever Joy or Jay are on stage - and double the effect when they’re on stage together. For example, how they both swivel their heads at the same time, as the play closes, is one truly precious moment that will have you in stitches.

Coming in the same Rep season that gave us A Comedy of Tenors, comedies set in the 1940’s are back in a big way this year - and we are ever so lucky to find these comedies still sparkle and provide a kick. Like vintage wine, these plays just get better as they age. Kudos to the wonderful cast, and to Director Jamie Wilson.