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The Criterion Brings Us Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring, at The Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry, from 9 – 16 December 2023.


The Criterion Theatre have come up with the perfect end to their 2023 season! They proudly present a revival of Joseph Kesselring’s classic dark farce, Arsenic and Old Lace. This uproarious comedy tells he story of two charming gentle old ladies, pillars of the community who rescue their poor, lonely lodgers from the sorrows of the world – by poisoning them.

Last performed at the Criterion over 25 years ago, comedies of this longevity are hard to find, being a huge Broadway hit in the early ‘40s and then surviving as a relative staple of the international stage repertoire ever since.

The author, Joseph Otto Kesselring was an American playwright (1902 - 1967) who was best known for writing Arsenic and Old Lace which became a long running Broadway hit from 1939 to 1941, as well as a film in 1944 starring Cary Grant. Between 1933 and his death in 1967 Kesselring authored 12 plays with this one being the most successful.

A little known fact is that the play got its title from a previous, and now largely forgotten, sentimental novel of 1902, Lavender and Old Lace, by Myrtle Reed.

Here's what The Guardian have said about the play, Arsenic and Old Lace:

…an inspired and delightful comic concoction, which combines the cosy charm and ingenious plotting of an Agatha Christie Whodunnit with a much sharper and more knowing satirical perspective.”

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