Aaron Holbritter and Ian LaChance, two actors who have worked well together before on various Capital Region stages, promise their take on Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap” won’t be influenced by any previous versions.
The Home Made Theatre production will open Friday night at 8:15 at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs. “Deathtrap” was a four-year smash on Broadway and later a box-office success with the 1982 film version starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. But neither Holbritter nor LaChance ever saw a staged production or watched the movie.
‘Deathtrap’ by Home Made Theater
WHERE: The Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 28
HOW MUCH: $24-$21
MORE INFO: 587-4427 or www.homemadetheater.org
“The thing that drew me too it was that it was a thriller, and I saw a Levin play, ‘Veronica’s Room,’ at the Theater Barn last summer and I really loved it,” said LaChance, who recently co-starred with Holbritter in a production of “The Ladies Man” at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. “So I went to the audition under the assumption that I would also love this one, and I do. People have been making references to the movie during rehearsals, but I just have to tell them, ‘Never saw it.’ So, our version will be a fresh one.”
While LaChance knew little about the play heading into it, he knew enough to listen to Holbritter, who highly recommended it and suggested he show up at the audition. Holbritter, however, wasn’t as familiar with the play as he thought he was.
Click here to read Gazette theater writer Carol King's review.
“It’s a very well-known play, but I have to admit when I ordered the script to get ready for the auditions, in my mind I had confused it with ‘Sleuth,’ ” said Holbritter, referring to the 1970 Tony Award-winning play by Anthony Shaffer. “So I wasn’t as familiar as I thought I was. But it’s a great play with a lot of twists and turns. When I did read it I loved it.”
Thrived on Broadway
Levin, who also wrote “No Time for Sergeants,” had his biggest Broadway success with “Deathtrap,” the play earning the distinction as the longest-running comedy-thriller in Broadway history. The show earned four Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play.
LaChance plays Clifford Anderson, a young playwright whose latest work is stolen by Sidney Bruhl, an older more accomplished writer who is in a bit of a slump. Or at least that’s the way the play starts out and that is what the audience is initially led to believe. But, as Holbritter said, there are plenty of twists and turns.
“The play has a little bit of everything in it,” said Holbritter, who has also done a lot of acting and directing with the Schenectady Civic Players and at Albany Civic Theater. “It’s funny in a lot of ways, but it really is a top-notch stage thriller. I love the dychotemy. It’s very funny, but at the same time it keeps you guessing and keeps you on your toes. The audience also gets some pretty good scares from it.”
According to Holbritter, “Deathtrap” is one of those wonderfully written pieces that makes fun of its own genre.
“I told some of my friends that this play did for thrillers what ‘Scream’ did for horror movies,” he said. “It takes its genre, and turns it on its end. But while it makes fun of the genre, which it really does do, it’s absolutely everything that genre should be to be good. It’s so well-constructed by the playwright.”
While the play does have a number of comedic moments, LaChance says he and Holbritter aren’t playing it for laughs.
“It’s important that an actor doesn’t take himself too seriously, but you have to take your character very seriously,” said LaChance, who lives in Wynantskill. “When you’re playing someone evil, as an actor you can’t start believing that your character is evil. When you jump into that character, you have to believe that he is right.”
Breaking the tension
“Comedy is about truth, and when you’re true to your character the laughs will come naturally,” said Holbritter, a Cohoes resident. “Nothing in this show gets played for big laughs. They’re very well placed. Sometimes they’re used to break the tension, and other times they’re devised to lull the audience and then pop them with a big scare. It’s very clever.”
Joining LaChance and Holbritter on stage are Monica Cangero as Myra, Lizette Orozco as Helga and Rick Wissler as Porter. Christine O’Connell is the assistant director, while rounding out the creative team are Vaughn Patterson, scenic designer; Mary Fran Hughes, props; Kyle VanSandt, lighting designer; and Dianne O’Neill Filer, costume designer.