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Sisters Abby and Martha Brewster certainly don’t look like serial killers who have just disposed of their 12th victim. The two genteel characters in LaRue County High School speech team’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” could just have easily been retired schoolteachers.
In fact, the two women who play those roles are retired LaRue County school teachers Phyllis Blakeman (Abby) and Susie Litteral (Martha).
“We saw Katy Cecil and Kim Mather at Paula’s (a Hodgenville restaurant) and they asked us to take part in the production in honor of their dad, Garland Blair, who produced it when he taught at LaRue County High School,” said Blakeman.
Litteral has a sense of deja vu about the production since she played the same part when Blair produced it years ago.
“I played Martha; Randy Stephens played Teddy; and Debbie Atherton was Abbey,” Litteral said. “It was easier learning those lines back then.”
Both Litteral and Blakeman said they’re enjoying the roles of the two women who think they are helping lonely elderly men find peace by poisoning them.
“Why, what we’re doing is mercy,” said Litteral, citing a line from the comedy.
The two actresses join several LCHS students in the production that Cecil is directing.
“We knew the play would have broad appeal in the community and we wanted to get some outside community members involved as well,” said Cecil, an LCHS teacher and the speech team coach. “We knew this particular play would be a great vehicle for Ms. Blakeman and Ms. Litteral and it would bring people in to see the production.”
The performances, 8 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19, will raise funds for the LCHS speech and drama team.
That money will help the team travel next spring to Indiana and Emory universities as they seek to earn bids to the national Tournament of Champions in Fullerton, Calif. They will also compete to represent Kentucky at the national speech competitions in May and June in Nebraska and Kansas.
The play, set in the 1940s, called for sets and costumes from a much different generation. Mike Hornback of Hornback Construction and Jerry Lawson, owner of JHL Contractors, designed and built the set.
“It is really something to behold. I think my dad would have been jealous of this one,” Cecil said. “They donated most of the materials and labor, as well, so that the majority of the money raised from this production will go directly to the speech team.”
Shirley’s Fabrics and Alterations is supplying Blakeman’s and Litteral’s costumes. Blakeman even located two authentic Victorian chairs that will be part of the living room furniture.
The cast has been rehearsing several times each week since September. Mather and Libby Sears Blair have helped Cecil in directing the play.
“This is the first time I have taken anything like this on and I never knew how much hard work went into something like this,” Cecil said. “It has given me a new appreciation for my father and all that he did here at LCHS.”
For $10 per ticket, those attending the play will enjoy the eccentric family that includes an unstable relative named Teddy Brewster (Mac Blair) who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and who buries the victims in the Panama Canal (the basement).
“We are looking to sell as many tickets as possible, so we were determined to put on a quality production of a quality piece of literature that people wouldn’t mind paying to see,” Cecil said.
Tickets can be purchased at Paula’s Hot Biscuit (358-2237) or by calling Cecil at LaRue County High School (358-2210). A limited number will be available at the door.
Other cast members include Ian Mather as Mortimer Brewster, Angelia Whitlock (Elaine Harper), Timmy Gibson (Jonathan Brewster), Jeshua Logsdon/David Cruse (Dr. Einstein), Ethan Laha (Officer Klein), Ashley Thompson (Officer Brophy), Jedidiah Wolford (Officer O’Hara), Cody R. Thompson (Lt. Rooney), Paul Mullins/Rex Hanson (Mr. Gibbs) and Lindsey Beckner/Ellis Fraser (Mr. Witherspoon).