*Originally posted on the Capital Critics’ website here!*
Deathtrap: Trapped Indeed, But Worth It In The End
What more can the average theater goer ask for than a pleasant night out? Nothing is the answer – except perhaps for some great theatre thrown into that mix as an added bonus. Unfortunately, Deathtrap, written by Ira Levin and directed by John Collins at the Ottawa Little Theatre only somewhat succeeds in this venture; the audience is given a pleasant night out indeed, but the theatre is only mediocre. This comedic thriller lacks the real thrill it needs to make it a memorable piece during a very memorable 100th season for OLT.
Deathtrap is a play within a play about Sidney Bruhl (Lawrence Evenchick), a playwright trying to get his next big hit. He plans to steal a new play by one of his former students, Clifford Anderson (Dan Demarbe), coincidentally named Deathtrap. As he is famous for writing murder mysteries, Sidney’s wife Myra (Diana Franz) is concerned that her husband will turn to desperate measures to get his hands on this new play. A series of twists and turns ensue through the next two acts, involving a psychic neighbor, Helga ten Dorp (Angela Pelly) and the Bruhls’ lawyer, Porter Milgrim (Gordon Walls). I don’t want to give away the surprises, as they are unexpected and quite entertaining; it’s worth keeping a little mystery alive…
The set design (by Mike Heffernan) was excellent! The OLT stage was effectively turned into a renovated colonial stable with two levels, a huge bay window exposing the cyclorama, some great angles, and antique weapons lining the walls.Unfortunately, I feel like the staging didn’t live up to the set. There was a lot of “busy work” occurring, where characters would wander stage right in order to make drinks at the bar while they waited for their turn to talk. There was also much full crossing of the stage for no reason other than what seemed to be in order to deliver a line from a new perspective. The lighting design (by David Magladry) was really very nice. The cyclorama was used to its full potential as well as the fireplace, which when lit created a nice amber glow on the set and actors.
The acting was quite inconsistent throughout the cast and in individual performances. Evenchick began very slowly in the first scene, and the banter between him and Franz was painful to sit through. Eventually, he warmed up to the performance though, and despite some line flubs, he did an admirable job as a funny, quick witted, yet dangerous and suspicious man. Demarbe did a wonderful job transitioning with his character from a young innocent to an ambitious schemer. Franz was quite monotonous throughout her time on stage with the exception of several seemingly out of character outbursts; she really dragged down the rhythm of some scenes that were supposed to be quick and light. Pelly remains an enigma to me –I found her character grating, especially the accent which was reminiscent of Yoda with a lisp. Yet at the same time, she was a breath of fresh air! I found the over-the-top character quite welcome, especially in Act One which definitely needed the pick-me-up.
Overall, Deathtrap was an admirable community production. It may be difficult, but I recommend sitting through Act one in order to get to Act Two, which is much faster, exciting, and funny. The thing that I need to state is how evident it was throughout the night what a staple OLT is to our Ottawa community. Thank you for 100 years of theatrical love OLT – we really appreciate it!