From the mind of the evil genius who blessed us with “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives” comes a comedic thriller that surely inspired a generation of mystery writers. When I say evil genius, I mean it in the nicest way. Writer IRA LEVIN’s ability to craft a mind bending meta-theatrical masterpiece is well, masterful. It’s no wonder “Deathtrap” debuted in 1978 and ran for 1,809 performances on Broadway.
Now the award winning ICT or International City Theatre has the pleasure of bringing it to Long Beach during spooky season. In a city full of over priced haunted houses it’s a welcome relief to pay a reasonable price for some spine tingling suspense. caryn desai places this time honored play in the hands of Director JAMIE TORCELLINI and he carries the torch with a steady hand. You would be surprised how many times I have seen brilliant material bungled but in this instance, the play is as impressive as ever. I would also love to highlight the exceptional work done by Scenic Designer FRED KINNEY as well as the Property Design team of PATTY, and GORDON BRILES. It makes an actors job a lot easier when you have such a rich playground in which to bring their imaginations to life.
The imagination of aspirational writer “Sidney Bruhl” played by GEOFFREY LOWER runs wilder than Extremophilic microbes, seriously look them up, I had to. They are a wild bunch and so is this cast. On the surface the couple of ‘Myra Bruhl’ played by JILL REMEZ and Sidney appear to be your typical upper middle class well educated socialites but we all know appearances can be deceiving. Sidney’s dreams may be too big for his britches and his wife’s estate. It wouldn’t be proper melodrama if his cup of ambition doth not eventually runneth over. REMEZ does a spectacular job reeling him in and steals the show at one point demonstrating how she may have really been the brains behind the operation all along. It’s too bad that Sidney never learned that behind every great man is an even better partner.
Injected into their lives is the worlds next hot young writer “Clifford Anderson” played by COBY ROGERS. Clifford has with him an unread magnum opus, aptly named “Deathtrap” and is on a mission for validation from his idol, the well seasoned Sidney Bruhl. IRA LEVIN’s decision to make the play about the existence of a play written by playwrights would blow even M. Night Shyamalan’s mind. Mix in a heavy dose of witty repartee and a sprinkle of intellectual debate and you have the makings of a theatrical roller coaster ride.
ROGERS as Clifford is endearing as he presents a bright eyed and bushy tailed young man full of promise and literary talent. “Deathrap” is set in 1978 and ROGERS captures both the innocence and the curiosity of the time. His cool, calm, and collected demeanor is a nice foil to LOWER’s maybe a bit too bombastic Sidney. Sidney can be a lot to handle and LOWER succeeds in not milking a slapstick scene with a desk and shines when the maniacal gives way to the meaningful. Beneath the veneer of brilliance is the sensitive soul of an artist that Sidney is struggling to save. There is an undercurrent of love that still permeates the relationships he has. It’s that undercurrent that adds depth to this comedy and grounds it in a tragic reality.
Rounding out the ensemble is “Helga ten Dorp” played by MICHELLE HOLMES and “Porter Milgrim” played by PATRICK VEST. Helga is the comedic relief in this comedy which seems odd, but it actually adds dimension to this intricate tapestry. HOLMES is full of vim and vigor showing of her special properties and cracking wise at the same time. Porter is the outsider view that brings the stakes into perspective. VEST’s earnestness and no holds barred opinions sharpen the focus of the audience as to what is at risk for our characters and maybe even themselves.
You see, there is more to lose than is immediately obvious and this forces the characters into some very precarious situations. The first scene of the play is a bit long and expositional but once it ramps up, it snowballs. How our protagonists manage to escape these traps and shift the narrative is a genuine pleasure to watch. Agatha Christie and Mel Brooks would tip their cap to this show and I am sure you will too.
International City Theatre presents Deathtrap.
• Written by Ira Levin
• Directed by Jamie Torcellini
• Starring Michelle Holmes, Geoffrey Lower, Jill Remez, Coby Rogers, Patrick Vest
• Produced by caryn desai [sic]
• Presented by International City Theatre
Previews: Oct, 18 and Oct. 19 at 8 p.m.
Performances: Oct. 20 – Nov. 5
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Oct. 18 ONLY (preview)• Thursdays at 8 p.m.:Oct. 19 (preview), Oct. 26, Nov. 2
• Fridays at 8 p.m.:Oct. 20 (Opening Night), Oct. 27, Nov. 3
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov. 4
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 21, Oct. 29, Nov. 5
International City Theatre
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
• Opening Night (Oct. 20): $55 (includes post-show reception with the actors)
• Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday, Oct. 20): $49
• Sunday matinees: $52
• Previews: $37