WIESBADEN, Germany - Love, murder and insanity play central roles in the Amelia Earhart Playhouse's newest production, the classic comedy, "Arsenic and Old Lace."

"I think it's a fun show," said Laurie NeSmith, the play's director. "It's referred to as a dark comedy, but it's not malicious by any stretch. It moves very quickly."

Late-night movie fans may remember the uproarious film version from 1944, directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. The zany plot follows the misadventures of recently married writer Mortimer Brewster who visits his eccentric, but lovable, relatives only to discover that their "charity" operations involve murder and basement burials in the old family home.

"Arsenic was one of the first shows I directed, and I actually directed my dad in that show in Mississippi," said NeSmith, explaining, "I kind of grew up in the theater and majored in psychology with a minor in drama."

The Department of Defense civilian spouse and community volunteer said she directed and acted in a number of different shows over the years. "'Annie' was my first show here (at the Amelia Earhart Playhouse where she played Miss Hannigan) and then I was asked to direct the next show.

"I think the appeal is that it ("Arsenic and Old Lace") is one of those classics that maybe today's audiences are not so familiar with," NeSmith said, adding that this is an opportunity to "bring it back to a new audience."

Offering a comedy as entertainment is a way for audience members to "laugh at themselves, get a break from everyday stressors and enjoy a positive experience," the director said. "Audiences get a chance to see their friends and coworkers on stage."

"I figured this is a good way to get out of the barracks, have some fun and give back to the community," said Sgt. Reggie Graham, who plays the role of Lt. Rooney and is an AFN broadcaster when not on stage.

"I did a little acting in high school and college over 10 years ago. What this does for me is gets me out of my zone," said Graham. "The acting community includes so many different people. This helps me socially and to meet new people -- something I would have never done sitting in my room and playing Xbox."

"I did a lot of theater in the UK but didn't do anything for several years until I saw an ad for auditions for the 'The Elephant Man' here," said Bobbie Lording-Pfanner a British citizen who was performed in a variety of productions at the Amelia Earhart Playhouse, Frankfurt International Theater and Wiesbaden's Kryptonite Radio Theater.

"It's always nice to come back to the Amelia Earhart Playhouse. I really appreciate being able to take part," said Lording-Pfanner who plays one of the Mortimer's aunts in "Arsenic" and was recognized with a prestigious Topper Award for her ensemble work in the Amelia Earhart's past production of "Agnes of God."
"I like the theater. It's lovely working with the sort of people you meet here -- a complete mix of people with experience and people who have never acted before," she said. "It's a real community theater -- a family -- which is nice."
They say it takes a village -- and in the case of community theater, especially one operated primarily by volunteers -- people of all skills and talents ensure its success.

"I've been doing set design and construction for the last several shows," said Tim Coble, a DoD civilian spouse. "I needed to do something with my time … and I've really enjoyed it. You meet some great people, and it's really fun.

"I'm a mechanical engineer, and this is a great way to use that creative side," Coble said. "I probably spend close to 20 hours a week. … The best part is you really do get to meet some talented and interesting people. It gets me away from the house and involved in the community."

"We had such success with 'Annie' and we wanted to continue the momentum," said NeSmith about her hard-working volunteer thespians and backstage crew. "We want to encourage community members to come out and see the show. In addition to supporting friends, neighbors and coworkers, continued support means the Amelia Earhart Playhouse can continue its mission of offering English-speaking theater and various creative learning opportunities."

The director invited anyone interested in getting involved in upcoming productions to volunteer "and become a part of the AEP family."

"Arsenic and Old Lace" opens Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Other play dates are Feb. 25, March 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance will be featured at the Amelia Earhart Playhouse on Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m.

The theater is located in Wiesbaden at Konrad-Adenauer-Ring 39 (Amelia Earhart Complex).

Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased in advance at Wiesbaden Arts and Crafts, Building 1214, on Clay Kaserne. Payment at the door is also possible, space permitting.