Deathtrap Review - Dying From Laughter

Even though DEATHTRAP originally opened on Broadway way back in 1978, it has retained its zip and fun and is as original and entertaining today as it was almost 40 years ago. A run of 1,908 performances over four years says something about the audience’s acceptance of this clever and timeless spoof on murder mysteries. Of course, anything written by Ira Levin remains a perpetual treat for audiences. “No Time for Sergeants,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Boys from Brazil,” and many other novels, plays, and films cemented Levin’s reputation in show business. DEATHTRAP blends the unexpected, gallows humor, and laughter into a recipe guaranteed to be a real crowd-pleaser. If you’re in the mood to tickle your funny bone and stifle a scream at the same time, this may just be the play for you. 

Shaw Purnell, Don Savage, David Tolemy, Karesa McElheny, Christopher Cappiello (center) - Photo by John Dlugolecki

 

Poor Sydney Bruhl (Christopher Capiello) is a dried-out playwright of murder mysteries who has hit the proverbial writer’s block big time. He longs for his earlier days of stellar fame and fortune. Enter talented but unknown aspiring playwright Clifford Anderson (David Tolemy), Bruhl’s former workshop student. When Anderson sends Bruhl a draft of his play, DEATHTRAP, it draws first the interest and then the envy of has-been Bruhl. How to return to his past glory through authorship of this potential smash Broadway hit? Of course, he could collaborate with young Anderson and share the renown and profits - or maybe there is a better way to gain control of DEATHTRAP. How will his loving but nervous wife Myra (Shaw Purnell) handle his murderous thoughts? And how will meddlesome psychic Helga ten Dorp (Karesa McElheny) and his attorney Porter Milgrim (Don Savage) fit into this tale? 

 

Christopher Cappiello, Shaw Purnell, David Tolemy - Photo by Gina Long

 

A riotous series of surprises with twists and turns at every juncture await the audience. Director Christian Lebano has done a superb job of keeping this story moving from one intriguing event to the next and keeping his eye on the farcical nature of the ball. The excellent cast manages to scare and delight at the same time. 

 

Christopher Cappiello, Karesa McElheny, Shaw Purnell - Photo by Gina Long

 

Special congratulations are in order for the excellent stage set (John Vertrees and Erin Walley), lighting (Pablo Santiago), sound (Barry Schwam), and costumes (Vicki Conrad). Fight choreographer Ken Merckx also deserves a nod for authenticity. The entire production crew has done a fine job. Everything about this play falls into place just where it belongs. Playwright Ira Levin is probably smiling from wherever he happens to be. This is a not-to-be missed production and is highly recommended. 

 

Karesa McElheny, Christopher Cappiello, Shaw Purnell, Don Savage, David Tolemy - Photo by Gina Long

 

DEATHTRAP runs through February 20, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays with a special matinee at 2:30 p.m. on February 4. Tickets cost $30 (general admission), $27 (seniors 65+), $20 (youth 13-20), and $17 (children 12 and under). For reservations, call 626-355-4318 or go online at www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

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