Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Deathtrap"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Rhode Island College Theatre is Ira Levin's thriller, "Deathtrap" which encompasses many plot twists and is essentially a play within a play. "Deathtrap" was the biggest hit on Broadway running 1809 performances. It opened on February 26, 1978 and closed June 13, 1982, that same year the show was adapted into a movie with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. Levin has taken the basic components of thrillers and horror stories; murder, deceit, innocent dialogue with sinister meanings, plot reversals, unexpected turns of events and twisted and rearranged the pieces again and again. A revival of the show opened in London in August of this year starring Jonathan Groff and Estelle Parsons. The play takes place in the Westport, Connecticut home of the famous playwright, Sidney Bruhl who is having a dry spell with his writing, finds himself having trouble writing the next big play. After his last few productions flop in the box office, he becomes desperate. His rich, doting wife, Myra is worried about Sidney and encourages him to collaborate with his student at U-Conn, Clifford Anderson. When Cliff shows up at their house is when the twists and turns of the show begin. Add a comic Dutch psychic to the mix and Sidney's stuffy lawyer and you have the ingredients for a spine chilling evening of topnotch action and direction by Jamie Taylor.

Jamie's blocking of the play is topnotch especially when it throws you a curve from the way you think it is going to go. He uses his expertise throughout the evening and enlists strong support from his talented crew, too. The set designed by Alan Pickart is excellent, resembling a converted stable in a country house that is realistic. The scenic painting adds to the realistic atmosphere complete with stone fireplace, wooden paneling, French doors and hard wood floors. The walls are covered with the weapons Sidney has used in his past thrillers and they are used to their utmost in this thriller. The costumes are by Marcia Zammerelli and the macabre music for the show is by Alan Pickart, too.

Heading this cast as the sinister, playwright is Alex Duckworth. He has tons of dialogue and stage business to do with the rest of the cast. Alex plays the role with flair, making his every move count, leaving the audience on pins and needles as to what happens next. Alex's scenes with Jeff in the second act combat scenes are brilliantly portrayed by both actors. His long suffering wife of 11 years is well played by Dani Cameron. She delivers the goods in this role as the doting wife who worries about her husband's dry spell and then is shocked at some of his actions in the first act. The young playwright Cliff is excellently played by Jeffrey Church. He has a lot of physical scenes in this show and handles them beautifully. Jeffrey handles the transition of this young, naive college student into a menacing figure with ease. I last reviewed him as Jimmy Tallant, the crooked art dealer in "The Late Christopher Bean" at 2nd Story Theatre in July. He delivers another impressive performance as Cliff in this show, too.

The biggest scene stealer in this show is Talia Triangelo as Helga Ten Dorp, the Dutch psychic. Helga is the best written role and Talia commands the stage in all of her three scenes. Talia enters as a whirling dervish and her energy never wanes. Helga feels pain in this house, she screams and runs up to the others, scaring the pants off them but it is always done humorously. Talia's best moments occur with the confusion about the name Smith-Corona, that her parents never had to wrap her Christmas gifts, she didn't ever lose at hide and seek, and that she received a vision that her daughter is pregnant in Europe. She receives a thunderous ovation after her first exit and it is well deserved throughout her entire performance. Rounding out the cast is Michael Martin who plays the stuffy lawyer, Porter Milgrim. He has some clever one liners which garners him the laughs you'd never think a lawyer would receive. His funniest line is about trying to write a play about his favorite Supreme Court Justice, Frankfurter. Michael and Talia have a very comic scene at the end of the show which will leave you wondering what's happening and since this is a mystery thriller, you'll have to see it to see what actually occurs.

"Deathtrap" (29 September - 3 October)
@ Helen Forman Theatre, 600 Pleasant Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide