by Claire DeMarco
College professor and playwright Sidney Bruhl (Eric Leslie) reaches a creative slowdown as his most recent play submissions have bombed.
Fortuitously Clifford (Arjun Kumar) sends him his unpublished play titled “Deathtrap” and asks his former professor to look it over, provide him with comments and suggestions. After Sidney reads the script, he is overwhelmed. The play is brilliant. It’s perfect. He wishes it was his play. Sidney’s wife Myra (Joyce Miller) encourages him to do something with this aspiring playwright – support him, produce the play or perhaps collaborate with this young playwright.
Collaboration is the key word and Sidney invites Clifford to work together on Clifford’s script. Since Clifford now lives with Sidney and Myra, work continues uninterrupted for some time.
Occasionally Helga (Helga Terre), the next-door neighbor visits. She touts her extra sensory perception skills and proclaims that she feels death in the house. After spouting these pronouncements several times, she leaves.
Time passes and sometime later family attorney Porter (Andy Cornelius) arrives at the home with a finalized will.
Helga was correct. A death did occur. But whose?
Leslie controls the stage. He is witty, sarcastic, self-absorbed, a wicked con man. He is able to switch between these various aspects of his character’s personality seamlessly. Leslie is both funny with nicely timed retorts or dead serious when required. His collaboration appears to be one-sided as Leslie slouches at the desk or at times hits the typewriter keys once or twice with indifference.
It is so easy to love Miller as the somewhat naive and supporting wife. Her eyes and facial expressions, along with her constantly closed hands effectively portray a wife who loves her husband but is really somewhat suspicious of her husband’s chatter about killing someone.
Kumar is excellent in completely becoming two distinct personalities. Convincing as the shy playwright anxious for approval, he becomes part of a con that transforms him into a worldly, self-confident manipulator. His movements change, his speech is more pronounced and in command compared to his slightly awkward persona as the backward playwright.
Terre is hilarious as the next-door neighbor. With arms outstretched and eyes bulging each time she enters her neighbors’ home, she canvases the living room and as often as she can proclaims in broken English that “She is psychic”! She has great comedic timing.
Cornelius has a smaller part and appears near the end of the play as the friendly, sympathetic attorney. He is extremely convincing as his character changes from that docile lawyer to an angry, foul-mouthed mortal caught up in a collaboration of his own.
What a well-balanced cast!
Scenic designer Aria Dietrich’s set is minimal but effective with a desk the prominent set prop center stage.
“Deathtrap” is a production of Little Lake Theatre Company, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg, PA. It runs from July 20th through August 6th. For more information, click here.