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Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ Playing the Brewster Sisters

Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for 'Arsenic and Old Lace' Playing the Brewster Sisters

Sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad are both in producer Otis Sallid’s sights to star in a revival of playwright Joseph O. Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” as the Brewster sisters who are at the center of the narrative.

Aiming for a 2015-2016 Broadway bow, Sallid tells Playbill: “For the last four years, I’ve been trying to get this production up and running. It’s always hard to get Phylicia and Debbie on board for the same thing. I thought it would be a brilliant, brilliant idea to get Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad in a Broadway production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ They, at this point, have agreed to do it.”

So, the sisters are both in. But there’s still some work to be done, like acquiring the rights to the play, which Sallid, who will also direct, says has been the main hold-up in his journey to see the revival with Rashad and Allen, realized.

He does say that there’s “a lot” of interest in it, suggesting that moving forward shouldn’t take much longer, as he’s already in pre-production, with Long Wharf Theatre and Huntington Theatre Company interested in coming on board.

The play is a described as a “farcical black comedy” revolving around the Brewster family, descended from the “Mayflower,” but now composed of insane homicidal maniacs. More from Sallid: “The hero Mortimer Brewster is a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and local police in Brooklyn, NY, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves. His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home; and a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein to conceal his identity and now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff. The film adaptation follows the same basic plot, with a few minor changes.”

“Arsenic and Old Lace” first opened on January 10, 1941, at Broadway’s Fulton Theatre. It starred Jean Adair and Josephine Hull as Martha and Abby Brewster, respectively – the characters that Rashad and Allen will play. Although don’t expect an all-black reinterpretation of the play.

There was also a film adaptation of the play in 1944, directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant.

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