Northampton Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

Theater Review: 'Deathtrap' delightful at Bucks Playhouse

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Deathtrap" is a crackling good production, through July 13, Bucks County Playhouse (BCP), 70 S. Main St., New Hope.

The mystery comedy is a whodunit from beginning to end, except all the usual suspects are right there on stage.

If you haven't seen the Tony-nominated play by the masterful Ira Levin ("Rosemary's Baby," "The Stepford Wives," "The Boys From Brazil"), which debuted on Broadway in 1978 and was made into a 1982 movie, the BCP production is a good place to start. Even if you've seen "Deathtrap," the BCP production will delight you with its powerful, shall we say, execution.

"Deathtrap" out-Agatha Christies Agatha Christie.

"Deathtrap" is a good re-introduction to BCP, if you haven't been there since the summer 2012 reopening of the storied theater celebrating its 75th year with the "Founders Day Diamond Jubilee" documentary film, "Straw Hat Cinderella: Bucks County Playhouse At 75," premiering 7 p.m. June 30 at BCP.

Marsha Mason, who narrates the documentary, is one of the chief reasons to see "Deathtrap." She assays the role of Helga ten Dorp, a wacky, eastern-European-accented prognosticator. Mason brings most of the laughs to the play, efficiently and gleefully directed by Evan Cabnet.

Cabnet unfolds the macabre play without missing any of the inherent cues and markers, including a foreshadowing thunderstorm rendered so realistically by Zach Blane, lighting design, and Nevin Steinberg, sound design, that I expected a downpour upon exiting the theater on the starry-sky Summer Solstice evening.

The super-realistic scenic design by Anna Loulzos adds to the play's verisimilitude. The high-ceiling, light-wood paneled room handsomely-appointed and with big windows gives the audience a comfortable feeling amidst the uncomfortable proceedings guaranteed to make you jump in your seat.

Little can be revealed about the plot other than to say that it's about playwright Sidney Bruhl (a nicely contemplative Saxon Palmer), his wife Myra (Angela Pierce), aspiring student playwright, Clifford Anderson (winsome and energetic Raviv Ullman) and an attorney, Porter Milgrim (David Wohl).

What's most delightful about "Deathtrap" is the chicanery of playwright Levin's plot, the storyline's insider view of wordsmithing, playwriting and the world of theater, and the play's Hitchcockian take on human psychology.

"Deathtrap" is an enigma wrapped inside an enigma. Go. See. Challenge your wit. Have your funnybone hit. The BCP production is about as satisfying as summer theater-going gets.