It’s been a while since the Sierra Madre Playhouse (SMP) has produced a thrilling play. This season they’ve decided to change that by bringing back one of Broadway’s popular historic long-running thrillers, “Deathtrap”.
“The playhouse used to do thrillers a lot. We’ve moved away from that,” Director Christian Lebano said. “This is probably the best thriller ever written and it just seemed like a good fit for our season.”
Although the production’s opening had been pushed back several times due to popular demand of the theater’s production “Always, Patsy Cline,” it still offers enough clever diversion and startling surprises that’ll please.
The production is set around Sidney Bruhl, who was once a successful mystery playwright for Broadway that is in a bit of a slump. While struggling with writer’s block, one of his students, Clifford Anderson, crafted a spiral mystery play called “Deathtrap.” What seems to be an amazing find, Sidney emerges with a creative idea to make it his. But, is it worth killing for?
A bit suspenseful. It has many twists and turns in between, not to mention, a few witty lines to make you laugh.
Following the original production by Ira Levin, Lebano decided to take it upon himself to put his vision of it on stage.
“I start with an idea and then I see how this team of people can help me realize that idea. It is a collaborative art,” Lebano said.
The alliance of the SMP team and cast members shaped an ensemble that did a nice job of carrying out this complex production.
Despite the wary start, the cast members were able to capture every emotion.
Christopher Cappiello, who’s acted in New York for some time, hasn’t done a play in about nine years but portrayed Sidney Bruhl effortlessly. Given that thrillers come from a heightened place, Cappiello was able to keep his character focused during every desperation and potentially crazy moment.
“The main thing is you have to play what’s happening right now, you can’t be thinking about what comes later or give anything away of what’s coming later,” Cappiello said.
By his side is his worrisome wife, portrayed by Shaw Purnell, who displays a calmer and rational outlook that hopes to balance Bruhl’s view and ends up adding irritation. Whereas Don Savage, who’s taken on the smaller role of Porter, Bruhl’s legal advisor and friend, creates an upbeat yet solid tone.
Karesa McElheny nailed her impression of Helga, Bruhl’s neighbor, a famed psychic known for solving crimes. Every time she stepped on stage the intensity boiled. McElheny by far stood out enormously in this production.
However, there is more to “Deathtrap” than its genuine shock. It’s comedic and often unsettling view of the environment a writer can be in during writer’s block unravels the imagination of what’s really going on in that mindset, giving the lines a totally different meaning the second time around which makes it really fun to watch.
“I had a great time. I thought it was well directed, especially the moments where there appeared to be a lull and all of a sudden something really active and scary would happen,” Doug Harvey, a theater-goer said.
“Deathtrap” is definitely captivating and filled with interesting moments that’ll make for a memorable evening. It is showing now through Feb. 20, 2016 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.