McLean Community Players DeathtrapBy Michael Clark • Apr 27th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
McLean Community Players
Alden Theatre, McLean, VA
Through May 5th
2:15 with one intermission
$16/$14 Seniors, Students
Reviewed April 20th, 2012
Deathtrap follows the adventures of scheming thriller playwright Sydney Bruhl as he plots to acquire all the copies of one of his student’s plays. Twists abound as layers of his plan are revealed. Add a psychic and inquisitive lawyer to the mix, and the situation gets even more twists. Deathtrap was the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway and was also nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.
I have to say that Deathtrap is an excellent thriller. Plenty of twists occur and are revealed in very unexpected ways. The characters, while not all are very likeable, are realistic (or as realistic as a psychic can be) and each gains the sympathy of the audience at different points of the adventure. The problem is, that once you’ve seen Deathtrap, you can’t forget it. I saw Deathtrap performed by the Vienna Theatre Company several years ago, and most of the twists I knew were coming. And unfortunately that really affected my enjoyment of this production. So I will not give any twists away in this article!
Overall, this was an enjoyable evening of theater. But the production struggled to decide if Deathtrap was a thriller or a comedy. It never quite hit all the cylinders as either, which generated inconsistent expectations from the audience. Should we laugh, or be shocked at what we’re seeing take place on stage? For example, the last scene brought outright nervous laughter from the audience as two characters were talking about their discovery. That simply didn’t feel right. There was also a missing element of sexual tension between two characters, so a moment of shock was diluted. Director Jerry Bonnes has created entertainment, but it could have been even greater with a stronger decision to emphasize the thriller aspects of Deathtrap.
Dan Eddy made playwright Syndney Bruhl almost into a bully as he manipulated his wife and friends. You did feel sorry for him as he described his past glories, but his treatment of his wife soured our opinion of Syndey. Eddy made Syndey’s craftiness very obvious, he was very believable as a writer of thrillers. Laura Peterson made Syndey’s wife Myra timid, but she was able to be strong as she realized what her husband was plotting. Will Spilman’s debut as Clifford Anderson, Syndey’s former student, went well. Spilman got lost in one scene, but Eddy was able to redirect the lines so the scene could continue. Spilman was effective in making Anderson have a wide range of emotions, from innocent to scared to strong. Lois A. Stanziani made psychic Helga Ten Dorp into a very funny character, which did work well. Her style of sharing her premonitions was comic. And John Geiger rounded out the cast as Syndey’s no-nonsense attorney Porter Milgram.
The technical aspects of the production were wonderful! Dinnie Whitson’s set decoration was wonderful, from the rotary telephone, ancient typewriters to show posters and weapons displayed throughout the room. The many prop weapons (Jerry Gideon) were wonderful. (Who do you know that has a mace lying around?) There was also an excellent amount of detail shown in the storm scene. The wind picked up, lightning flashed and thunder crashed (almost always in the correct order). Make sure you watch the bush visible through the living room window during the scene; its reactions to the wind is perfect. The set, by Bill Glikbarg, was almost a bit too polished to be a restored barn, but was very attractive.
In sum, McLean’s Deathtrap was an agreeable evening. It mixed comedy with thrills, though not always successfully.
Whenever people see a movie, a play or read a book invariably the question is what is it about. Not the plot but what theme does the story, boiled down, encompass… greed, revenge, love, hate, something else? Of course the answer is a subjective one and everyone relates to what they just experienced differently. Deathtrap is a perfect example. Certainly there are many themes played out on stage but each character has had a life prior to the fateful events that occur in the play. Everything that happens is a result of lives imagined by the playwright. Ira Levin’s masterful crafting of our characters is really what allows us to laugh, cringe and collectively become engrossed in the happenings at the Bruhl residence. Though we can all discuss what the play is about, there would not be any discussion at all if it wasn’t first and foremost about entertainment.
Photos by Traci J. Brooks Photography
- Sydney Bruhl: Dan Eddy
- Myra Bruhl: Laura Peterson
- Clifford Anderson: Will Spilman
- Helga Ten Dorp: Lois A. Stanziani
- Porter Milgram: John Geiger
- Director: Jerry Bonnes
- Producers: Bunny Bonnes, Abbie Edwards
- Stage Manager / Assistant Director: Shayne Gardner
- Deck Chief / Assistant Stage Manager : Terry Yates
- Set Design: Bill Glikbarg
- Stage Combat: Carl Brandt Long
- Props: Emily Besuden
- Props (weapons): Jerry Gideon
- Weapons Fabrication: Dick La Porte
- Window Cards: Claire Tse
- Technical Director: George Farnsworth
- Set Decoration and Painting: Dinnie Whitson
- Assisted by: Cathy Farnsworth, Christine Whitson
- Lighting Design: Bob Zeigler
- Sound Design/Board Operator : Zack Sanders
- Master Carpenter: Bernie Gmiter
- Assisted by: Bob Schroth, Bill Glikbarg
- Master Electrician: Nathan Devonshyre
- Costume Design: Jane Chancler
- Sound Operators: Zack Sanders
- Backstage Running Crew: Emily Besuden, Tula Pendergrast, Mary Renschler
- Press Relations: Brent Stone
- Publicity: Laura Dailey, Dell and Tula Pendergrast
- Photographer: Traci J. Brooks
- House Manager: Columba Brumby
- Webmaster, Playbill : George Farnsworth
Disclaimer: McLean Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. MCP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7933.