Meet the “Arsenic and Old Lace” cast: Gayle Grier having a blast playing the murderous Aunt Abby

Gayle Grier as Aunt Abby in the Community Theatre of Howell's "Arsenic and Old Lace."

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The Community Theatre of Howell’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” takes the stage Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3. From now until opening night, the Livingston Post is introducing you to members of the cast and production staff.

For a comedic actress, there are few roles that are any juicier than playing one of the murderous spinster aunts in the classic “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Gayle Grier gets to sink her teeth into one of the prime roles in the Community Theatre of Howell’s production of the play, and she’s enjoying every second of it.

“My youngest son got involved in theater while he was still in high school and won the role of Mortimer in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’” Grier said. “I was so hooked on the show that I attended every performance. When I saw an advertisement on Facebook for auditions in November, I knew I wanted to go for it! I had never been involved with CTH before and have learned to love everyone’s passion, professionalism, and friendliness. What a great staff and crew!”

Gayle Grier as Aunt Abby. Would you like some wine?

“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a black comedy that’s the tale of two spinster aunts who have taken to poisoning lonely old men with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. When their nephew, Mortimer Brewster, finds out, he’s tasked with trying to stop them, while at the same time dealing with his crazy family.

Grier, who plays Aunt Abby in CTH’s production, recently moved to the area from Green Bay, Wisc. She’s been involved in theater for much of her life.

“Having enjoyed being on stage in high school and college, I set that aside for a few years – like 45 – to raise a family,” she said. “I am happy to say they are all wonderful (and functional!) adults, which has now set me free to pursue my joy in theater. The last three years, I have performed in 10 or so productions, which has kept me moving pretty consistently. I will be in Outvisible Theatre’s (Allen Park) production of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City’ at the end of March. Whew! Say THAT three times!”

Grier said she’s had a number of memorable experiences on the stage.

“I’ve got to say that Violet Weston in ‘August: Osage County’ has been my all-time favorite role so far,” she said. “Clara Nowak (‘Miracle on South Division Street’), Silda Grauman (‘Other Desert Cities’), and Aunt Sheila (‘It Shoulda Been You’) are all close seconds. When ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ closes, Aunt Abby will be in there too!”

And she can’t wait for opening night this weekend.

“Audiences will be captivated by this old classic infused with lots of new energy, funny characters, and endearing familial conflicts,” she said.

The Community Theatre of Howell is presenting “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the Howell High School Freshman Campus, 1400 W. Grand River Ave., Howell. Shows are Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3, with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday each weekend.

Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students and seniors, available at Finding Roots in Howell, Maria’s School of Dance in Fowlerville, Big Acre in Brighton, and Ed Bock Feed and Seed in Pinckney. Tickets are also available by calling 517-545-1290, or online at You can buy tickets by clicking here.

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About Buddy Moorehouse 244 Articles
Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.