Deathtrap Still Thrills

By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

Deathtrap has been done many times since it became the rage of Broadway.

It was longest-running play in the early 80s. It also was a smash as a film, starring Christopher Reeve and Micheal Caine.

If you haven’t seen the Ira Levin comic thriller, you need to. The Long Beach Playhouse is offering it as the first play they are doing in the new year, directed with affection and a few new ideas by Gregory Cohen. And even if you do know it well, the surprises and the double surprises are still there.

Mind you, even Deathtrap, which seemed so up-to-date once, now is a bit of an antique. The plot revolves around a play called, yes, “Deathtrap,” and the fact that the play exists only in two copies: an original and a single carbon. Only those older than a certain age remember carbon copies now that computers are the tool of writers and multiple copies are almost unavoidable. It also revolves, in part, around typewriters, another antique technique.

In the new era the two main leads, silver-haired Gene Godwin as Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful playwright, and Johnny Martin as young and hunky Clifford Anderson, are now homosexual lovers, something the playwright did object to in a court case 10 years ago.

But the story and the thrills, are the same. Godwin and Martin are in the middle of all the plot twists. A very comic portrayal of Helga Ten Dorp, the psychic who owes a lot to Madame Arcati from Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, is played by the ever entertaining Harriet Whitmyer.

Allison McGuire as Sydney’s wife, Myra, is an essential part of the plot.

It’s all fun, especially since both Godwin and Martin make their characters just a little smarmy, so you don’t get too involved with them emotionally. Cohen does a good job of using the attractive set designed by Andrew Vonderschmitt, though occasionally he allows important dialogue to be delivered with some of the audience facing the actor’s backs.

A personal note: , who had been the voice of the Playhouse, answering the phone for tickets as patron services manager for more than 4 years, died in his sleep the Friday morning before Deathtrap opened. He was a young man (in his 30s) and a vital part of the Playhouse. I talked to him the Thursday before his death and we had a nice chat about the upcoming season. Everyone will miss him.

Tickets are $24, $21 for seniors and $14 for students. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 15.

Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org
Venue: Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre
Location: 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

 

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