What type of play better suits a blustery autumn evening than an old-fashioned thriller? Huntington Playhouse in Bay Village is presenting “Deathtrap,” a reasonably contemporary mystery, through Nov. 11.
Written by Ira Levin – remember “Rosemary’s Baby?” – “Deathtrap” is a tightly constructed play by a gifted writer, writing about writers. Sidney Bruhl is a writer of Broadway mysteries, but he has not had a success in many years. After giving a seminar at a local college, he gets a brilliant script from a young student. With his wife, Sidney at first speculates about luring the writer to his home, killing him and claiming the script as his own. Gradually the speculation becomes a plan, and then a reality.
Of course, the simple plan encounters roadblocks and counterplans, and in the course of the two-hour play, there are a half dozen major twists and surprises. In the Huntington production, energetic Alex Nalbach is perfect as playwright Sidney. Nalbach points and punches all of his lines, actions and expressions. There’s no doubt about what’s going on in the character’s head. As his wife, Jeanine Srace plays the role in counterpoint to Sidney’s directness. The performers work well together.
Chris Bizub is eager student Clifford Anderson. Perhaps not what he appears, Clifford is a macho character, hovering a bit between confident of his play and needy for suggestions to improve it. Sharon Nieland is Helga Ten Dorp, a psychic neighbor of the Bruhls, and completing the cast is Robert O’Malley as attorney Porter Milgrim.
The plot of “Deathtrap” is contingent on the “old-fashioned” lack of technology in the early 1970s. Writers used typewriters. Sometimes there was a carbon copy. Photocopies were new, exotic and expensive. Huntington’s opening night audience was very aware of the play’s period and responded well to the many twists and turns the plot takes. Dave MacKeigan’s direction is solid, and the light colors of the set are a nice change from the “expected” dark woodwork we might expect of this type of show. The numerous script references to posters of Sidney’s past successes are unfulfilled in the final set.
“Deathtrap” runs weekends through Nov. 4. It is a thriller that delivers the promised laughs and mystery.