Deathtrap is a departure from the regular Christmas fanfare, currently in production at Everyman Theatre. Every scene is filled with an element of surprise worth gasping over. Written by Ira Levin, Everyman’s Director Vincent M. Lancisi leads a very talented cast through a play about a play full of murder, mayhem, and melodrama.
Everyman’s stage is dressed with a majestic red velvet curtain by Scenic Designer Timothy R. Mackabee and that coupled with low lighting, by Lighting Designer Jesse Belsky, immediately sets the tone of the show.
Lead character, Sidney Bruhl (Bruce Randolph Nelson) is a slightly obnoxious, slightly obsessed playwright that runs the gamut of emotions from his first to last line. Nelson transitions his character from mysterious to madness and has a quality reminiscent of John Lithgow. Costume Designer Kathleen Geldard dresses him casually in trousers, a button down shirt, and a sweater. In one scene he fashions a tweed jacket with elbow patches; quite the contrast to his out-of-his mind character.
On the other hand, Nelson’s character is a bit stodgy and yet very learned. His sense of humor drips with sarcasm as Sidney references death as much as the posters that are hanging on the walls. Nelson’s strikes a balance as he plays this character as slightly humorous, slightly sinister, and slightly paranoid, but not over-the-top. Adding to all that, Nelson’s facial expressions gave away just enough of what might come next.
Myra Bruhl (Beth Hylton), Sidney Bruhl’s wife is stunning in her blue chemise dress and bright turquoise shoes that are striking contrast against Bruhl’s light red hair. Her poised character goes from elegant to suspicious as her husband reveals bringing playwright of Deathtrap Clifford Anderson out to their remote home. Hylton slowly builds on her character’s nervousness prior to his arrival as her confident diction succumbs to jittery chatter. There is no doubt though, this actress can scream – REALLY SCREAM!!
Clifford Anderson (Danny Gavigan) has that hottie, scruffy 1970’s look as he appears on stage in a suede jacket, shirt, and tight jeans. Gavigan’s acting style is indicative of Scott Bakula (NCIS: New Orleans, and Quantum Leap). His character’s upbeat attitude and the excitement in his voice dwindle as Sidney makes his inquires about Cliff’s play, Deathtrap As Clifford figures out Sidney’s intentions, his hesitancy becomes apparent as he stammers over his words and begins to ramble. This leads to a grim fight scene between Nelson and Gavigan, choreographed by Lewis Shaw, and had me holding my breath.
Helga (Deborah Hazlett) is very eccentric with her assertive mannerisms and her psychic abilities. Adding to her characters qualities is her accent. Like Hylton, Hazlett is also poised in this role but her funky dresses add a bit of twist. She is a little on the outlandish side and definitely offers comic relief, and that is what really makes her a likable character.
Porter Milgrim (Will Love), the lawyer friend, looks like Walter Cronkite dressed in his trench coat, vintage Fedora, and thick horn-rimmed glasses. Sidney describes Porter as dull but sharp, is spot-on. Milgrim is a natural on stage, delivering his lines with ease.
The meticulous set designed by Timothy R. Mackabee is like slicing open someone’s home. As indicated in the play, it is a renovated stable with barn doors, decorated very rustic with a lot of weaponry, a deer head and furniture of various wood types. It appears to be well lived-in with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covered in books, the built-in with a vast collection of china, and a desk that Sidney eventually shares with Clifford. Sound Designer Stowe Nelson and Lighting Designer Jesse Belsky together produce one heck of a loud storm. Stowe Nelson has composed orchestrations that add to the suspense and tension of the production.
If you like surprises, a clever whodunit, and a lot of laughs, then Everyman Theatre’s Deathtrap is the show to see this season. With its superb cast, excellent direction, astounding Fight choreography, and brilliant design, Deathtrap will tickle your funny-bone as you scratch your head wondering what the heck is going on in the heads of these characters.
Everyman Theatre’s Deathtrap is delicious fun! Pop some tickets in your family’s Christmas stockings!
Running Time: 2-1/2 hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.