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Review: "Deathtrap" has scares but lacks suspense

Review: "Deathtrap" has scares but lacks suspense

As many times as I’ve seen Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap” I never realized it was a hilarious comedy. And t

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Click here to read Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview

As many times as I’ve seen Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap” I never realized it was a hilarious comedy. And that may be the problem with Home Made Theater’s production.

Levin is known for his humor, inside jokes, intricate plotting and superficial characters, but there needs to be an underbelly of sinister intentions throughout the play. As directed by Terry Rabine, HMT’s production just doesn’t meet that qualification. This may be a conscious directorial choice, but it didn’t work for me.

Aaron S. Holbritter, as Sydney Bruhl, a playwright who hasn’t had a hit in 18 years since he wrote “The Murder Game,” is entirely too urbane — some might say clownish — to be a murderer of the first water, which he is. There is no layering in his character’s persona that might give us a clue as to his true nature.

Ian Lachance, as Clifford Anderson, a younger, up-and-coming playwright, offers no indication that his own intentions are anything but pure and innocent.

The murders, near murders, and maybe murders, therefore, seem to come out of nowhere and the audience is not given the satisfaction of saying “Yeah, I knew it was him — or her.” On the bright side, the show is a great date experience, offering very little in the way of speculation or concentration and a ton of scary, surprising moments at which point your partner may require a sudden squeeze. So there is some fun to be had.

Monica Cangero, as Bruhl’s wife, Myra, is her always competent self. She alone gives breadth and depth to the role of a woman in a circumstance beyond her control. She alone lets the audience know that something — a strange and powerful something — is about to happen. Rick Wissler, playing Bruhl’s lawyer Porter Milgrim, gives solid support, but again, there is no indication that he is anything but a solid, supporting lawyer.

Lizette Orozco gamely wrestles with the part of Helga Ten Dorp, the psychic next door who “sees” the violence that is about to happen, but she is clearly too young for the seasoned, grandmotherly, all-knowing Helga. At times she forces her vocal level to a maddening screech — and that’s no fun at all.

Scenic designer, Vaughn Patterson, has created an inviting, if sometimes crude, set. Fieldstones that surround the fireplace and are an enormous focal point could have been rendered a bit more realistically. Costumes by Dianne O’Neill Filer seem to have come out of the actors’ closets.

Sound by director Rabine is a lovely combination of Vivaldi and, at appropriate moments, spectacular eruptions that do cause one to jump in one’s seat. They do add to the date-squeeze element of this whodunit.

In all, this is a production that, if acted and directed with a bit more finesse, could have been a winner.

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