‘Musings from the Back of the Theater: Deathtrap at McLean Community Players Revisited’ By Jerry Bonnes

Twenty-five years ago I was directing the play, Deathtrap in Virginia.  I stood in the back of the theater at one of the many critical moments of the play. All eyes were fixed on the stage. But my focus was on the audience. A great surprise was about to be unveiled before them. What I wanted to observe was its effect.

Will Spilman (Clifford Anderson), Jerry Bonnes (Director), and Dan Eddy (Sydney Bruhl). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Photography.

Such is the validation of a director’s staging of just one moment on stage – to have an audience collectively shocked. Indeed, the play, Deathtrap, encompasses a myriad of webs spun, then each ripped to shreds and remade much as a spider might do until the final web reveals an amazing and unexpected conclusion. It’s like a roller coaster ride. Remember. You were so thrilled and fearful but yet you laughed all the way – as you careened and climbed up and roared down to the end. And when you got out of the car, you knew you had a memorable experience.

This year I again have been charged to direct Ira Levin’s script. And I’ve been challenged to revisit  and restage the script – yet stay true to Deathtrap’s roots. But a lot has changed at the community theater level of the stage production ladder since I first directed the play decades ago. Theater audiences, at all venues, expect their theater experience to contain more sophisticated technical elements and props as well as staging – that will justify their abandoning Netflix for the evening and having to travel some distance to see a play.

Lois Stanziani (Helga Ten Dorp) and John Geiger (Porter Milgram). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Photography.

The McLean Community Players has assembled an outstanding cast ready to resurrect (so to speak) the characters so wonderfully imagined by the Rosemary’s Baby author. The play is as fresh today as when it debuted over 30 years ago, a true test of a great thriller. Each member of the cast brings a unique interpretation to their characters. Giving theater patrons clear images of the motives and plans of each member of the troupe or so they think. What is it about the mystery genre that fascinates us? Could it be that we yearn for order in our lives? When something doesn’t seem as it should be we strive to understand the plot, predict the outcome and outsmart the author. Always failing with a well crafted story but immensely satisfied as the puzzle is revealed piece by piece.

To me directing a timeless mystery is a labor of love. One must engage the audience with the story and characters, then navigate them through the maze that is Deathtrap.  It is more playtime than work for me. I want the audience to feel enthralled at being lost and confused in the maze and at the end of their journey, finish knowing they loved the trip. Remember the roller coaster? You go for the thrills – and then leave with a great memory.

Deathtrap plays from April 20th hrough May 5, 2012 at The Alden Street – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, Virginia . For tickets call the box office (703) 790-9223.  Here are other options to purchase tickets. Performance are Fridays & Saturday 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Here are directions.

 

 

 

 

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.