Also see David's review of Breath and Imagination
Levin was at his best with Deathtrap, which is being presented by the Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland's Hanna Theatre through March 16, 2014.
Scenic designer Russell Metheny created a spectacular set, perfect for the study of a well-known playwright. The room had been the stable for the horses, but was converted into a large, sophisticated study with desks, sofas and walls that roll away to open into the house. Above and around the fireplace, the writer's collection of guns, knives, swords, and other instruments of torture and crime are displayed.
Sidney Bruhl (Tom Ford) writes in this study. Unfortunately, he hasn't written anything that has been successful in a number of years. Almost broke, he is supported by his wealthy wife Myra Bruhl (Tracee Patterson), who seems to be running out of money.
Sidney is occasionally invited to lead writing seminars. At one of these he meets a promising young playwright, Clifford Anderson (Nick Steen). Anderson sends Sidney a copy of a script, which surprisingly enough is named Deathtrap. Sidney declares the work a sure-fire hit. But he needs to get Clifford and all of the copies of the script to his home. He plans to suggest a co-authorship (remember, Sidney needs money).
While they wait for Clifford to arrive for a friendly chat about the script, Sidney outlines how he could murder the young playwright and present the play as his own and not have to divide the royalties.
Clifford arrives. He's young, handsome and talented. At one point in the visit, Sidney steps behind Clifford and places a rope around the young man's throat and ...
Oh, no, that would be way too easy.
The new neighbor Helga Ten Dorp (Lynn Allison) arrives for an unexpected visit. She is a psychic and she senses pain, death and other horrible things that can happen in murder mysteries played on a stage before an audience.
Things happen in the audience, too. At several points in the performance I attended, most of the audience laughedgood, loud belly laughs. At other points in the story, the people seated behind me screamed and screamed again. Following the curtain call, many of us rushed to the bar in the lobby for a drink to steady our nerves. We were greeted by Charles Fee, the director. He didn't need a drink to steady his nerves. He should have known he had a hit on his hands.
The cast is excellent. Tom Ford makes the over-the-hill playwright equal parts charm and desperation.
I've reviewed Tracee Patterson in several other productions. She can find all of the laughs the playwright tucked away in a line. She's a top-shelf actress.
Nick Steen is as handsome as a matinee idol should be and he's a fine actor. I look forward to seeing him in other productions.
Lynn Allison takes her psychic character over the top, evoking fear on and off the stage.
What a good, satisfying production. It's easy to understand why Deathtrap continues to hold the record for the longest running mystery/comedy on Broadway. Deathtrap continues in Cleveland's Hanna Theatre through March 16 at the Hanna Theatre. For ticket information, call: 216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org.
- David Ritchey