On Thursday evening I set off once again in pursuit of 2017’s summer theatre lineup. After being wowed during my last visit to Scarborough Village Theatre, at their previous comedy “Tons of Money,” how could I turn away the opportunity to see this fabulous theatre group bring another classic to life?
This time around it was none other than the classic, dark comedy DEATHTRAP by Ira Levin. For those unfamiliar with this theatrical addition, you may be familiar with Ira’s other famous offspring, such as The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Simply by looking at his previous works, I was already excited as a lover of all things dark, with a touch of comedy.
As soon as the eager audience were introduced to the theatre by the delightful producer Katherine Turner, the lights dimmed and the show began.
The best way to describe this show to prospective attendees is that it is a “play within a play.” The story begins with our lead character Sidney Bruhl; a once “in-demand” playwright, now swimming in a mixture of writer’s block and discontentment; played by the talented Clive Lacey.
He hasn’t written a successful play in well over a decade, and to make matters worse, a former young pupil at one of his past seminars has sent him a copy of a play he has just created.
But why should that make things worse, I hear you ask? The reason…the play is fantastic. Sidney is kicking himself that he didn’t come up with the idea himself…the story is so fresh, so new and bursting with potential. Its got the perfect plot, as well as the many twists that lie throughout.
Sidney’s wife Myra Bruhl; an intelligent, opportunistic business woman, sees a way to bring her husband out of his self-thrown ‘pity party.’ Played by Peta Bailey, Myra encourages her partner to get in touch with the aspiring young playwright, in a hope to offer her husband’s wealth of knowledge of the industry to this gentleman. Not only would this be seen as beneficial to the up-and-coming creative talent, but it inevitably would throw Sidney back into the spotlight, which he yearns to have back on him.
When Deathtrap’s creator Clifford Anderson (Nicholas Wicht) arrives to the Bruhl household in Westport, Connecticut, all seems to be going to plan. Sidney boasts to Clifford of past triumphs, even throwing in how he is ‘supposedly’ writing a new suspense play based loosely on the work of psychic-clairvoyant Helga Ten Dorp, which now will have to take a step back, if he is to inject his expertise into tweaking Deathtrap.
But much to Sidney’s surprise, Clifford is not as simple-minded and naive as he would have hoped for. Clifford soon informs Sidney and Myra that it would be silly of him to place all his eggs in one basket and solely consult Sidney on the promise of his play.
Darkness soon descends, and with it, Sidney’s distrust and feelings of a soon-to-be-lost opportunity. Myra can see what’s coming. With no-one knowing where Clifford has headed off to, and not a soul aware of Deathtrap’s existence, Sidney behavior begins to change.
Despite the creepiness of the scene, you cannot help but laugh at both Sidney’s efforts to appear calm and collected, and Clifford’s sudden realization of the approaching threat to his life and work. Sidney attacks and as the struggle dies down, so does the lifeless body of Clifford.
All over? Think again. Yes, Sidney now has Deathtrap for himself, and a future theatrical award on his mantelpiece, but more surprises lie on the horizon. Lo and behold, the renowned Helga Ten Dorp (played by the marvelous Erin Jones) has moved into the house next to the Bruhl’s. How much of a problem could she actually be? Yes she assisted authorities on missing person’s cases, especially murders…but she couldn’t be the real deal…or could she?
With the arrival of this eccentric psychic, Helga, and lawyer Porter Milgrim (Frank de Francesco), the story unravels, and what we believe to be true gets turned upside down. With surprise visits, shocking revelations, hilarious outbursts and unforeseen twists that not even I seen coming, Deathtrap is one of those dark comedies you can laugh with from beginning to end.
Some secrets are taken to the grave, whereas others cannot remain buried.
All in all, the show was extremely enjoyable, which I was not surprised by. The Scarborough Players never fail in delivering a show that touches the hearts of every theatre-goer and tickles their funny bone.
Once again, credit must be given to the wonderful set designers of Deathtrap, as they surprise me each time, with the authenticity and life-like quality of each stage they create.
Although the 5 cast members were phenomenal in their own way, the two actors that stood out for me the entire show were Nicholas Wicht, who played Clifford and Erin Jones, who played Helga. The reason why these two actors stood out was not just simply down to the comedic element of their characters, but their natural ability to make the audience feel a mixture of emotions; whether it be fear or fun, or an equal measurement of both.
Erin had the audience’s sides aching with laughter in every scene she appeared in. Her take on Helga had everyone wanting more and more. Whether it be the hilarious, psychic reactions to everything she touched or her unexpected visits when the Bruhl’s least expected it…Erin truly brought the fun factor to the show.
Throughout the performance and interval, I could hear people whisper, “I can’t wait to see the psychic come back,” “The psychic is hilarious,” and “Who is playing Helga? She is fantastic!”
Nicholas, on the other hand was a breath of fresh air, in his portrayal of playwright hopeful, Clifford. He played the role wonderfully and I looked forward to each scene he was in. His take on the smooth, sweet-talking, cheeky student was second to none, and extra acknowledgment must be given to the physically demanding nature of his character’s role.
All in all, I would definitely urge the Toronto public to go and see this great show. You will hold your breath, gasp, jump and laugh your way from beginning to end. What more could you ask from a show?
DEATHTRAP runs for another 4 more days:
July 9th @ 2pm and July 13th-15th @ 8pm at Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road.
For TTC users, the (102) Warden Station bus provides a front door theatre drop off point.
Theatre has FREE PARKING and is Wheelchair Accessible.
Tickets for Deathtrap can be purchased online by clicking HERE or can be purchased at the Box Office (Tel: 416-267-9292).
Further information on upcoming shows at Scarborough Village Theatre can be found by clicking the link provided.