Well, Halloween certainly spurs many to think about scary things, and conjure up fright gags to hilariously torture our friends by scaring the bejesus out of them. So I think Aurora Community Theatre got it quite right about producing Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, a Thriller in Two Acts, during this festive season. Based on the audience’s reactions, there were plenty of ominous moments that were verbally exorcised at the show I attended.
For those who are not familiar with the show, it is a quite clever who done it, or who you thought done it, and even stretches to I have no fricking idea who is doing what to whom. And that is the major fun of this piece, so much so, it is one of the longest running plays on Broadway. The five-character drama about Sydney Bruhl (Kevin Horak), a playwright with writer’s block, his fragile wife Myra (Susan Henthorn), his talented seminar student Clifford Anderson (Zach Griffin), his lawyer Porter Milgrim (Mark Durbin) and the psychic next door, Helga ten Dorp (Sue Jeromson), opened on Feb. 26, 1978, and ran for 1,793 performances. Recently deceased Marian Seldes, who played the wife, Myra, became famous for staying with the show during its entire run, not missing a single performance. The play was made into a 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Dyan Cannon and the late Christopher Reeve. The film caused a sensation at the time due to a kiss shared by Caine and Reeve. Shocking, I know.
Director Paula Kline- Messner has assembled a good group of actors, some of which excel more than others. They have the great joy of cavorting on an awesome set. Beautiful set design work is the first striking asset for this production. Horak cuts a fine regal figure as Sydney Bruhl. He presents himself as a solid character, and lets the layers unravel slowly, as we discover his dark side. Good work. Henthorn is appropriately fragile at his wife. She is fragile egg that is devoted to her husband, and is ready to help in any way, almost. Nice work. Griffin certainly enters the festivities with a gentle honest demeanor. His character development works beautifully, as we soon discover, there is much more to this devoted student. Jeromson kills it as Helga. She is a fireball of energy, look, and overall character. Her accent is endearing, and her comedic timing a gift. Durbin does an outstanding job as Porter. Bringing his down home flavor just right, and, infuses the play with very good energy. Nice character work.
Overall, the first act seems to drag in energy. That goes away in act two, but part of the reason is the lack of varied delivery of lines. Horak has a beautiful baritone voice that should be more expressive, and I am sure it will be as the run goes on. But it kind of lulls you during act one. The pace also could be sharper, as Kline needed to tighten up the ship. This energy gap is exposed when Jeromson enters the room, and then the party begins. Also, there is a glaring mistake in the blocking. Porter states that “Is it true, that Helga pointed to the spot on the floor where she was going to die?” But she died in a chair. Another distraction is that the character Anderson is in jeans the whole play. Wouldn’t he dress up to at least business casual as Bruhl’s secretary, as opposed to looking like a college roommate? Then there is the gay issue here. It seems like the gentlemen are uncomfortable with the underlying character relationship between them. As you think they might share a kiss at tender moments of intrigue, they don’t, and they never really seem comfortable as actors dealing with that issue. It shouldn’t be a major point at the show, but it should be handled with more ease.
Producer Jennifer L.S. Teller did a fantastic job. Wes Shofner really did some tremendous work with the set. Craig D. Kollai did good work, along with a rain storm that looked real. Maggie Hamilton provided great sound, although the first scary music part might be better if faded out, not just shut off. Ann Nyenhuis called a great show. Neil Thackaberry provided some excellent guidance with the fight choreography.
When you balance out the evening, this is a fun production. You will never guess the twists and turns that these actors take you though. And as the machine fine tunes itself, the production will grow just in time for you to get out to Aurora Community Theatre and see this classic.
Please credit Tpography.com only with quotes. Thank you.
$16 Reserved Seating
Aurora Community Theatre
115 E. Pioneer Trail
Aurora, OH 44202