It doesn't take a detective to figure out why the Gallery Players production of Deathtrap was so successful -- smart direction, terrific staging, and solid acting were obvious enough clues. But for those who needed more evidence of the show’s success, it was readily available by eavesdropping on the audience, who raved as they lingered about after the play had ended.
In Ira Levin's Deathtrap, washed-up playwright Sidney Bruhl receives a copy of a brilliant new work (a play so good "a gifted director couldn’t even hurt it," says Sidney) written by Clifford, a student seeking his advice. Sidney invites Clifford to his secluded home, where he learns the young man hasn't shown the play to anyone else. Jealousy and greed emerge, and the suspense and plot twists escalate hand-in-hand with clever sight gags and tongue-in-cheek humor.
Under Heather Siobahn Curran's direction, Deathtrap became both a crowd-pleasing thriller and a satisfying piece of theater. Though the story takes place in one room, the action felt remarkably mobile and energetic, and never contrived or forced. Such direction increased the tension while allowing the humor to shine through -- a difficult job, here made to look effortless.
Mark Simpson’s set design was first-rate. The inside of Sidney’s office, featuring walls decorated with menacing weapons, showed an outstanding attention to detail. But a superb finishing touch -- giant mockups of a playscript bordering the outside of the stage -- added the perfect effect to a show filled with in-jokes about writers and the theater world.
Though the cast initially sounded somewhat stiff, they soon caught each other’s beat and created a fine rhythm. As Sidney, John Blaylock cloaked a sinister nature behind a facade of wisecracks. As Helga Ten Dorp, the psychic who drops by the Bruhl’s house to announce her premonitions, Sheila MacDougall displayed a splendid gift for comic relief.
For anyone seeking an enjoyable show, there’s no need to investigate any further. With Deathtrap, Brooklyn’s Gallery Players leave no one guessing where some of the highest quality Off-Off-Broadway theater is being produced.
(Also featuring: Patricia Lavin, Daniel Roach and David Crommett)
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Copyright 2002 Ken Jaworowski