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‘Deathtrap’ kills with laughs

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By Sara Miller

When the chill and snow of winter strike, it’s always enticing to curl up in front of the fire with a good murder mystery. The winds howl outside and the house creaks in new ways, making you question whether it is the groan of the walls or if something menacing is lurking around the corner. An even better way to fill your need for vicarious murder and mayhem is to enjoy a good thriller with others. StageDoor Theatre’s production of “Deathtrap”fits the bill —murder, intrigue and a dose of comedy that will have you looking over your shoulder and laughing the night away.

“Deathtrap” takes place in the isolated New England home of thriller writer Sydney Bruhl (played by Buz Gibson). The action centers on a play called “Deathtrap,”a new thriller by unknown dramatist Clifford Anderson (played by Christopher Abernethy), a former pupil of Bruhl. Clifford sends the script to Bruhl for his advice.

It's been 18 years since Bruhl burst upon the Broadway scene with the his own smash hit mystery. Following that, he suffered the indignity of four flops, and he is fresh out of ideas. Living mostly on his wife’s inherited money, Bruhl and Myra (played by Janice O’Grady) are still getting by, but cash is running short. However, when Bruhl receives Clifford’s script, he has an idea that might revive his career and his fortunes.

With Myra's assistance, Bruhl devises a plan to offer to collaborate with his former student on the script. However, Bruhl has another idea in mind, and that is to invite Clifford to his home, murder him, and steal his play. When Clifford arrives at the Westport railway station, Bruhl is intentionally late in picking him up so that no one will see him do so. Sydney's plans take an unexpected twist when Dutch clairvoyant Helga ten Dorp (played by Debbie Minter) begins to experience disturbing vibrations. What follows is a series of twists and turns that would leave even Hercule Poirot guessing.

Deathtrap opened on Broadway in 1978. The plays holds the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway (1800 performances in four years) and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Despite the macabre nature of the murder plot, playwright Ira Levin managed to sprinkle the tension with laughter. Director Justin Johnson knew the show was a perfect fit when StageDoor approached him about directing.

“I absolutely love both laughing and being spooked,”Johnson says. “So deciding to direct ‘Deathtrap’was an easy call. I’m always interested in anything that examines the human condition. So a play that includes the basic components of thrillers and horror stories —murder, deceit, innocent dialogue with hidden sinister meanings, plot reversals, and unexpected turns of events —well, it’s kind of like Christmas morning.”

The show runs Jan. 31 through Feb. 15 at StageDoor Theatre in Conifer. The company is presenting a special Valentine's Night performance. The ticket price for Feb. 14 includes dessert at intermission featuring some delicious creations from local favorite Yvonne's Patisserie.

‘Deathtrap’

Featuring StageDoor’s adult company
Directed by Justin Johnson
Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 7, 8, 14 & 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 8 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $12 to $17 (group discounts available for groups of 10 or more)
Special Valentine’s evening performance (ticket price includes dessert at intermission)
Purchase tickets at www.stagedoortheatre.org or call 303-886-2819.