By Ashley Clark 
BELLEVILLE – There was love, murder and insanity on stage at the Belleville Theatre Guild’s opening night of Arsenic and Old Lace last Thursday.
The classic 1941 comedy by Joseph Kesselring , about two maiden aunts in Brooklyn who think it’s their duty to kill off elderly single boarders for their own good, is the latest production of the amateur theatre group.
“I thought it was fantastic. The setting was outstanding, the casting was spot-on, the pacing, the costumes, it was all top-notch,” said audience member Linda Bond after the show.
The production is director Timothy Fransky’s first full-length play. He said he chose Arsenic and Old Lace because of its popularity.
“This was a good way to ease my way in, because it’s a well-known show and it’s pretty safe, I guess, as a piece. You’re sure to get laughs even if the direction is bad. But I had ideas to do some fun things with it, and I think we succeeded,” said Fransky.
The production came along smoothly, he said. Every part except one was cast after the first audition night, he added.
“Some shows you’ll argue the whole time, you’ll fight the whole time, and then you’ve got a beautiful show. But this show wasn’t like that. We had a great time. Now, the set and the design was a different kettle of fish. We had two weeks less than all the other plays, so everybody was working overtime in the set department.”
The set – the interior of a big old house – wasn’t finished until the Sunday before the Tuesday-night preview.
“It was important we get the set right and that it feels like a real house, because it’s a character,” Fransky said.
There were more people in the audience at the preview than on opening night, but Fransky said he was happy with how the opening went.
“Everybody really (sank) their teeth into the characters, and they all sparkled tonight, which was tremendously gratifying because that was really important to me,” he said after the show.
Audience members seemed to feel the same way.
Season-ticket holder Martin Bond said, “That was very well-cast. I thought it was a classic play that will live forever, which it seems to be doing. And I thought it had a lot of the old favourite actors and actresses (from) around Belleville.”
Belleville resident Jim Berry said: “Very funny, very well-performed. All the characters added to the performance. Very well-cast.”
Belleville Theatre Guild  president Moira Nikander-Forrester, who plays one of the aunts, said she encourages people to come out and see the show. “It will make them laugh and it will make them feel happy for days and days. And they will never forget it.”