I was all of about a dozen years old when I saw the film version of Ira Levin’s vicious murder-comedy DEATHTRAP…I have to admit, it kinda freaked my young self out more than a little back then.
But now, with the benefit of a few years under my belt, and all the soul-crushing horror the weight of those years brings with it, I was more than ready for a rematch with Ira’s Broadway-smash story, and the Ottawa Little Theatre and their centenary season were there to oblige me. Director John Collins was at the helm for the comedy thriller (originally put up at the OLT in 1983), about a waning playwright (Sidney Bruhl, played here by Lawrence Evenchick) who receives a tantalizingly brilliant manuscript in the mail from aspiring writer Clifford Anderson (Dan DeMarbre). Sidney’s wife Myra (Diana Franz) can see how envious her hubby is of the work, and after a few idle speculations on Sidney’s part, starts to seriously wonder if he likes the new play enough to kill for it.
It’s tricky to talk any more about the plot to this, a masterpiece of tricks and twisting turns throughout, without giving any of the more wonderful surprises away…suffice it to say, ‘trust no one’ is a pretty good mindset to head into this one with. Except, of course, the OLT team who manage to mount a pretty terrific production, starting off with a beautiful Mike Heffernan set displaying Bruhl’s ghoulish collection of weaponry…not all of which will go unused during the production. Evenchick is simply superb as the pompous, scheming Sidney, manipulating the audience as elegantly as the other characters and delivering one of the best male performances I’ve caught at the OLT in some time now. Diana Franz does great as stressed-out Myra, and Dan DeMarbre is impressive as Hell as Cliff Anderson, showing several sides and more than holding his own on stage against Evenchick. And much props (and scene-stealing points) to Angela Pelly as snooping psychic Helga ten Dorp, plus Gordon Walls doing a solid turn as Sidney’s lawyer Porter Milgrim.
DEATHTRAP is a sneaky, smart, funny piece of theatre macabre, and a rather pleasant change of pace from the period-dominated season thus far at the OLT(not a dig or anything, but it’s nice to get away from British accents for at least ONE play, ya know what I mean?). Director Collins picked a great cast to deliver Levin’s joyously paranoid romp, and they do him proud. Shoutout as well to the always great David Magladry on lights, tossing some fine lightning when called for. This one’s good bang (sometimes literally) for your buck, folks. Check it out sometime between now and April 6th…murders this dun don’t come along too often. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)