One of Broadway’s most popular mystery- comedy- thrillers, Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap,” was recently at the Bucks County Playhouse. First seen in 1978, and later as a film in 1982, “Deathtrap” ran for nearly four years on Broadway.
It was revived in London in 2010, it now appears in New Hope with a first-rate cast.
Saxon Palmer (perhaps best known from his TV work on “Law & Order,” “All My Children,” and “As the World Turns”) is Sidney Bruhl, a famous playwright who hasn’t had a success in some time. His wife, Myra Bruhl (played by Angela Pierce, who’s TV work includes “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: SVU/CI,” and “the Medium” among many others) has been supporting them both for some time, which has led to some recent marital frisson. Enter the young, aspiring playwright, Clifford Anderson (played here by Raviv Ullman, who has also appeared on TV’s “Law & Order: SVU/CI,” “House,” and “Cold Case”) who appears to be a genius, which inflames the famous playwright, Sidney Bruhl, with intense professional envy.
“Deathtrap” contains a key plot twist featuring a gay relationship which has caused problems producing it on the stage in Utah in 2014 and Los Angeles in 2012.
Utah’s production had a kiss, and the Los Angeles production had a brief nude scene to which the Levin estate objected. In this production, there is physical contact and verbal statements. But that is all that signals the relationship.
Saxon Palmer is charming, sexy and sly in his complex role. He is by turns condescending, vulnerable, arrogant, and proud. Angela Pierce has the requisite innocent trust and fawning admiration essential for her role as his adoring wife. Raviv Ullman is totally believable as the earnest young man with the wide-eyed innocence of youth. Rounding out this five-character play is the renowned actress, Marsha Mason (star of the films “The Goodbye Girl,” “Cinderella Liberty,” and “Chapter Two”) as Helga ten Dorp, the eccentric, famous, and seemingly ditzy celebrity psychic who has just moved in next door.
Ms. Mason just finished directing “Chapter Two” here on the Bucks County Playhouse stage. Here, she brings a larger-than-life extravagance to her comedic turn as the exotic psychic. David Wohl as Porter Milgrim, Sidney’s attorney, provided key information to further the story line.
Evan Cabnet directed this fast-paced, mercurial production. In spite of his youth, Mr. Cabnet has directed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Goodman Theatre of Chicago, at Lincoln Center, the Vinyard Theatre, and the Roundabout, on Broadway and off-Broadway.
This one-set, five character play needs a beautiful set, since it is often mentioned in the play as being a magnificent, renovated home in Westport, Connecticut. Scenic Designer Anna Louizos did not disappoint anyone with her lovely, detailed set. Zach Blaine, the 2014 Season Lighting Designer for Bucks County Playhouse worked magic as he conjured moonlight, lightning storms, and incandescent room lighting as required. Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design) and Paloma Young (Costume Design) provided their essential talents.
Rarely seen, but always appreciated, J. David Brimmer created and rehearsed the fight sequences with the skill he has shown on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera.
For information on upcoming plays at the Bucks County Playhouse visit www.bcp.org.