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Theater review: Pioneer Theatre Company’s “Deathtrap”

by on April 1, 2014


Playwright Ira Levin’s Deathtrap has a bit of everything. Humor. Action. A mystery that genuinely leaves the audience guessing more than once along the way of its two acts.

In the hands of Pioneer Theatre Company and director May Adrales, it also has the benefit of a production that holds up its end of the bargain with the thriller’s witty script. Taking full advantage of Pioneer’s sprawling stage to create the study of writer Sidney Bruhl’s Connecticut home, the story unfolds with a winning combination of lighting effects and music, an array of murderous props and characters who are engaging from beginning to end.

I’ll avoid all spoilers here, but the essential set-up of the plot is this: Sidney Bruhl (Thom Sesma) and Myra Bruhl (Gayton Scott) are living in the Connecticut house as Sidney struggles to recapture his past success as a playwright best known for penning thrillers. Out of the blue, a young writer named Clifford Anderson (Devin Norik), who once took a seminar from Sidney, has sent the elder playwright a script for a thriller so good that the Bruhls start to joke about murdering the young man and taking credit for his work.

Or were they joking?

That’s one of the big questions lurking as Anderson comes to visit the Connecticut home, ostensibly to workshop his script with his mentor. Watching things unfold from there is a lot of fun–it’s easy to understand why Levin’s play was a critical and commercial hit in the early ’80s, running on Broadway for four years and being adapted into a 1982 feature film.

Pioneer’s Deathtrap moves along at a pleasingly rapid clip, and it works on a lot of levels–that’s as true now as it was more than 30 years ago.

As a commentary on the desperation of struggling artists, it’s pretty hilarious. As a example of the kind of thriller Anderson and Bruhl are intent on creating, it’s full of startling revelations and winning plot twists. And as simply a fine night of entertainment at the theater.

Pioneer Theatre Company’s Deathtrap runs through April 12. Visit the Pioneer website for showtimes, tickets and more information. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Company.

Norvik (left), Gayton Scott as Myra Bruhl, and Sesma. Photo by Alex Weisman.

Devin Norvik (left) as Clifford, Gayton Scott as Myra Bruhl, and Thom Sesma as Sidney Bruhl. Photos by Alex Weisman.

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