"Arsenic and Old Lace," that delightful story of two New England ladies and their poisoned elderberry wine, has come back to Boston, this time with the New York cast headed by Bela Lugosi. For the people who through some oversight have thus far failed to see the play, nothing can be done in this corner but give an unqualified advice to grab it while it's here.
The two innocent maiden aunts (Jean Aikin and Ruth McDevitt) with the corpses in the basement are the most fascinating innovation in the American literature of the past few years. Slaughterers deluxe of the petite bourgeoisie, the nice old ladies are rivaled only by their nephew (Bela Lugosi) whose 11 murders falls one short of their total.
Spice is added to this interesting bit of rural Americans by cousin Teddy, who believes firmly that he is Theodore Roosevelt at the battle of San Juan Hill. In fact, his military exploits on the stairs of the Brewster mansion (where he labors under the delusion that there are 150 Rough Riders hanging on his word "CHARGE!") probably put to shame all the fighting that occurred around San Juan Hill.
There is just one reservation to all this praise for the show at the Colonial: go to it willing to laugh. The play is a comedy and, like much of James Thurber's work, cannot be taken seriously. But, after the laughter and the mirth, remember it in seriousness, for it represents a condemnation of American middle-class life almost as damaging as that of Thurber. It isn't as bitter or as obvious, but it's there just the same.