by Ira Levin
directed by Ken Sawyer
@ The Davidson/Valentini Theatre, Gay and Lesbian Center, Hollywood
through May 6
Deathtrap in 1978, and it was later filmed in 1982 with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. Like Sleuth before it, Deathtrap makes a game out of murder with plot twists too numerable to mention, and adds just a small amount of comedy to make it all palatable. It's a play within a play, making it doubly intriguing to watch. Now on stage at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre of the Gay and Lesbian Center, this new production of the classic is every bit as fun as the original with a little sexual eye candy thrown in for good measure.
Playwright Sidney Bruhl (Brian Foyster) has dried up as of late and is in desperate need of a hit. Enter Deathtrap, a thriller penned by a former student. Reading it and realizing just how well written it really is, Bruhl allows a whole batch of wicked ideas to take control of his brain. What follows is a series of bizarre plot twists, which if I give away, will ruin your enjoyment of the play, so I won't. Suffice to say, Sidney has a wife Myra (Cynthia Gravinese), who is ever so willing to see him succeed in spite of her weak heart. Only difference is, Myra does not entertain evil thoughts and becomes horrified by Sidney's plan to co-author the play. Clifford Anderson (Burt Grinstead), the student author, pays a visit to Sidney's Westport, Connecticut home, and the rest...you must witness for yourself. Blackouts, thunder, lightning, unexplained noises, screams, antiquated weapons... even a nosy psychic neighbor Helga Ten Dorp (Elizabeth Herron), who delightfully intrudes at the most inopportune moments... it's all here for your enjoyment.
Foyster is right-on perfect as Sidney, plotting, scheming, his brain overworking 24/7 as he knows how to write and plan the perfect murder. Gravinese is beautifully focused and vulnerable as his incredulous wife. Grinstead, an Adonis in looks, makes Anderson at first likeable, but very intelligently cunning, creating the ideal foil for Sidney's brilliant mastermind. Herron is hilarious as Helga, never missing a beat with her over-the-top gestures and delivery, yet so real in her reactions to everyone and everything. Such a terrific actress! Stephen Mendillo (sharing with Carl J. Johnson) has the small role as Porter Milgrim, Sidney's lawyer, who plays into the action more than at first glance. Good job! Joel Daavid's set is superbly and meticulously designed down to the tiniest detail and Ken Sawyer's staging, magnificent .
Whether you've seen Deathtrap or not, see this production! It's as good as the original, maybe a tad better if you keep your eyes and ears riveted throughout, for there are unexpected treats to savor.
5 out of 5 stars