Review: ‘Deathtrap’ at Wolf Pack Theatre Company

The first thing you notice about Deathtrap is its busy and detailed set. The set contains posters of plays by the fictional playwright Sidney Bruhl on the wall; a skull with a pipe between its teeth; old desks; old typewriters; fancy lamps, and a dozen or so swords and guns. The next thing you notice about Deathtrap is its amazing directing by Wolf Pack Theatre Company Founder William Dean Leary, who also designed the set, and the phenomenal acting by the well put together cast.

Matthew Ratz as Sidney Bruhl and Katy Chmura as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.
Matthew Ratz as Sidney Bruhl and Katy Chmura as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.

The play, a murder-mystery comedy by Ira Levin, is a work rooted in the late ’70s, with references to late talk show host Merv Griffin and paranormal predictor The Amazing Kreskin. Deathtrap is set in a time when you had to dig—calling this person and that person—to find numbers and addresses. This play reminds me of Michael Caine’s hilarious acting training film, in which he taught actors using a scene from the 1982 film version. The convoluted plot starts with the premise of an aging, unsuccessful playwright, Sidney Bruhl, agreeing to assist a young playwright, Clifford Anderson, on his first play, the titular Deathtrap.

Matthew Ratz as Bruhl is an actor who does everything well—everything they teach you in acting school. He played his role with a devious subtext that was frightening, particularly when he yelled at his wife with exhortations such as “Relax, Myra!” Ratz, in his Wolf Pack debut, was recently seen in the film A Day in the Life, as Officer John Wagner.

Michael Bertone, as aspiring playwright Anderson, played his scenes with a good swagger and impressive sideburns that could intimidate anyone. The plot machinations were such that Bertone’s character had to face happiness and contentment in one scene and mortal danger in the next. Bertone has recently played R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Sterling Playmakers.

Katy Chmura, who played put-upon wife Myra Bruhl, played the objective of self-preservation to a high degree in her scenes with Ratz. Chmura’s reactions to her onstage, unhinged husband added much to the suspense. Chmura has enjoyed prominent roles as Ilse Neumann in Spring Awakening and Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray.

Michael Bertone as Clifford Anderson and Lorraine Bouchard as Helga Ten Dorp in Deathtrap. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.
Michael Bertone as Clifford Anderson and Lorraine Bouchard as Helga Ten Dorp in Deathtrap. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.

I loved Kyle Tirak as Bruhl’s lawyer Porter Milgrim. Also making his Wolf Pack debut, Tirak brought a studiousness to his judicious role. Lorraine Bouchard was a joy to watch as the clairvoyant Helga Ten Dorp. Her Dutch accent was spot on as she dominated her scenes in the character’s overreaching manner. Bouchard was seen recently in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Costume Director Dannielle Beitzell dressed Chmura in an eye-catching paisley dress and Ratz in a ’70s-style Starsky and Hutch sweater. She dressed Bouchard as a multi-colored ’70s hippie and Bertone in flannel and boots, reminiscent of the Brawny paper towel character. The technically gifted and prolific Stephen Beitzell (Dannielle’s husband), as Technical Director, provided apropos lighting throughout. I liked his lightning effect during a storm scene.

Make an appointment to see Deathtrap and be prepared for top-notch acting and sharp directing; you’ll spend time admiring the set too. Wolf Pack Theatre Company’s Deathtrap is a crowd-puller.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Deathtrap plays through May 20, 2018, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company performing at  St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church – 5820 Riverdale Road, Riverdale, MD, For tickets call the box office at 240-565-4144 or purchase them online.

Note: One dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to Community Crisis Services Inc., for Suicide Prevention/Intervention and Homeless Services including the Warm Nights Program. For more information, dial 301-864-7095.