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)

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Traffic was tied up at the intersection of Scott and Old Yale Roads in North Surrey on Tuesday afternoon, after a semi truck hauling a load of pipes flipped while making a turn. (Shane MacKichan photos)
VIDEO: Semi hauling load of pipes flips in North Surrey intersection

Traffic near Scott and Old Yale Roads tied up by Tuesday afternoon incident

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Tens of thousands of farmers descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Delta council stands in solidarity with protesting Indian farmers

Farmers have been protesting for months new laws they say leave them open to corporate exploitation

Shana Harris-Morris was killed Feb. 4. (GoFundMe photo)
IHIT says 22-year-old killed in Surrey shooting was ‘unintended victim’

Shana Harris’ family makes appeal for more information

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Man charged after pushing pregnant woman to the ground in Surrey, police say

Surrey RCMP say it appeared to be an ‘unprovoked assault’

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
‘Prolific offender’ charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Kao Macaulay, 23, is accused of breaking into home on March 30

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read