Michael (as Jonathan Brewster) and Jacqueline Charrois (as Martha Brewster) in Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” staged at Surrey Arts Centre this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26-27). (Submitted photo)

Battling Brewsters: In Surrey, married pair enjoy the thrill of playing foes in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Michael and Jacqueline Charrois hit the stage together in Royal Canadian’s dark comedy

You’d never guess it by their work as adversaries in Arsenic and Old Lace, Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s entertaining current production, but Michael and Jacqueline Charrois really do like to play together.

The 80-year-old black comedy features the married pair in starring roles – Michael as Jonathan Brewster, the evil nephew opposite Jacqueline’s aunt Martha Brewster, one of the twisted sisters in Joseph Kesselring’s story of murder, insanity and family infighting at a Brooklyn mansion.

The play, RCTC’s season-opener, was staged at New Westminster’s Anvil Centre late last week, and is brought to Surrey Arts Centre for a trio of shows this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26-27).

As a married couple, Michael and Jacqueline relish the opportunity to hit the stage together.

“Michael and I, we always have fun playing together on stage – it’s just easy, you know,” Jacqueline said in a conference-call interview with the two on Friday, the morning after Arsenic and Old Lace previewed in New West.

“When you’re on stage, there’s a definite familiarity, even though you’re playing different characters every time out. There are times when I go, ‘Oh, you’re doing that little trick!’ And that’s the familiarity we have.”

Michael and Jacqueline met at the Burr Theatre in New Westminster in 2003 while working on a production of Harvey, and have gone on to act together in close to a dozen plays.

Michael is a full-time actor, while Jacqueline recently retired from her job in the commercial real estate business – “not as a seller but as an administrator,” she noted.

• RELATED STORY: Move-in time for Royal Canadian Theatre Company at its new home in Surrey, from June 2017.

They live in North Vancouver, and commute regularly to Royal Canadian’s rehearsal studio in the heart of Whalley.

“We’ve done that for the last two or three years, quite a bit,” explained Jacqueline, noting a long history with Ellie King, the theatre company’s artistic director.

“Michael was already involved in her (shows) at the Burr Theatre when I came aboard, and right away, (King) was so nice – a wonderful, welcoming, warm person and highly creative, so it’s just a thrill to work with her so often.”

In conversation, Michael and Jacqueline finish each other’s sentences.

In one sequence, Michael started.

“Jacqueline, Steve Weller and myself, two seasons ago, played the cousins in It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, and Ellie liked the…

“…chemistry between the three of us,” Jacqueline said without missing a beat.

Michael continued.

“And when it came to this play she said, ‘Oh, you guys would be great as these three characters in (Arsenic and Old Lace). She always wanted to do that play…”

“…which was great,” Jacqueline quickly added. “I saw the original movie, with Cary Grant, when I was a little kid – I’m over 60 now, but I saw that film and I’ve always just loved it, always. So this is a role I’ve always wanted to do, so I was very excited when Ellie mentioned it.”

• RELATED STORY: Royal Canadian Theatre Co. celebrates 10th anniversary with ‘Stormy Night’ play, from September 2016.

In Royal Canadian’s version, Weller wears dresses and a wig to play Abby Brewster, Martha’s sister. Together, they work to poison visitors who happen upon their home, much to the horror of their nephew Mortimer (played by Steven Simpson), a theatre critic. When his long-lost brother Jonathan shows up with an uneasy plastic surgeon (Kurtis Maguire), things get even darker in a house with a jet-black secret.

Last Thursday’s show included a hiccup with an old phone that just wouldn’t ring properly – but no problem, just on with the show.

“When we were backstage and waiting to go on for the second act, and Ellie commented (to the audience) about it being a preview and how the phone didn’t ring properly, that was lovely because it brings the audience in, and the audience knows, right,” Jacqueline said. “It’s just that acknowledgement, and gives them a good laugh. It’s some insight about the show, and it’s real. That’s the thing today, because a lot of people who go to theatre don’t realize that we only get one shot at this, we don’t get to stop and say, ‘OK, let’s take that again,’ like they do on TV and in the movies. So it’s all what’s happening now, at that moment, and if something goes wrong, well OK, you have to deal with it.”

Added Michael, with a laugh: “And that’s why we study improvisation, so we can fly by the seat of our pants.”

Other actors featured in RCTC’s Arsenic and Old Lace include Charles Buettner (as Harper/Rooney), Victor Vander Merwe (Teddy), Shaun McHale (Brophy), Kyle Brogan (Klein), Amanda Prasow (Elaine), Jess Redmond (O’Hara) and Rob Larsen (Gibbs/Witherspoon).

At Surrey Arts Centre, the play is staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 26) and at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 27). The show comes with an audience advisory of some slightly scary situations, and is suitable for older children. For tickets, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call the box office, 604-501-5566. More details are also posted on Royal Canadian’s website (rctheatreco.com).



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

Ten of 11 people taken into custody after shooting in Surrey have been released

Police say four guns, two Tasers, drugs and other weapons were seized after home shot at in Whalley

Madchild headlines ‘Hip Hop For Hunger’ at Surrey’s Strumms ‘n Drums club

Venue at Turf Hotel has hosted a variety of music events in recent months

UPDATE: Surrey getting a new hospital, in Cloverdale

Premier John Horgan said the ‘brand new hospital’ will be built near Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Delta Police Department joins integrated forensics team

Forensics-trained DPD officers will investigate scenes in other cities as well as in Delta

15-year-old charged following threat to South Surrey high school

Police announce pair of teens arrested for Nov. 14 incident at Elgin Park Secondary

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

Hope’s illicit drug death rate rivals Vancouver

Small Fraser Valley district listed among top five per capita in B.C.

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Don’t expect extra bus service during impending SkyTrain strike, CMBC says

Full SkyTrain shutdown is scheduled to start Tuesday morning

Most Read