EMAV Review: 'Deathtrap' is a stand-in



★★★☆☆ - Satisfying

It happens; the planets don’t line up, the Universe plots against us. Theatre in the Valley (TITV) found itself in just such a situation when “A Grand Night for Singing” fell apart. In community theatre, what do you do when you sold season tickets and you owe those subscribers something? You punt and mount a replacement in a hurry. Ira Levin’s thriller “Deathtrap” or (almost) any Neil Simon comedy seem to be the go-to when you’re stuck in a pickle.

TITV found David Ament and “Deathtrap” and, according to last night’s sold out performance, it was a plot well-planned. Set designer Rick Bindhamer did a nice job getting the feel of a Connecticut home, the walls filled with the tools of death and window cards of the fictional plays mentioned in the show.

For the most part, Ament’s cast rallied round in the allotted time.

Sidney Bruhl is a desperate man. He hasn’t had a hit play in years. He’s also a closet homosexual and looking for a way to solve both problems. David Morey brings such nonchalance to the role that he’s much too at ease. Not to say he doesn’t have moments when that works. But, when he says, “I’m standing here terrified…” it’s not internalized in any way. Believability is left swinging in the wind.

Playing his wife, Myra, Edith Ellithorpe fares better. While some of her transitions are a bit bumpy, we at least see some fear and tension in her body. Her lines are more than just words from a page, we can see her think or recognize, and react.

Gary Brewer brings the Bruhl’s lawyer, Porter Milgrim, a friendly comportment, a statesmanship that works beautifully. He’s so at ease we know right away that he’s been in this room many times, that Sidney is more than a client. Brewer mixes the business with underlying pathos for a friend whose spouse has recently died.

The role of Helga ten Dorp is written to be comic relief from all the tension built up prior to her first entrance. Part of the issue is that there is no sense of pent-up fear. But, with arms waving and wild vocal syncopation, Vanessa Coleman turns in an over-the-top cartoon character with the type of heavily-accented broken English that brings more cringes than relieving laughter.

Chris Von Uebbing as Clifford comes across as natural. His movements, mannerisms, and delivery all combine into a whole. His transitions from wanna-be playwright to gay lover to victim all happen with finesse. He uses his full instrument to tell us what’s lying beneath the surface of the lines.

Production values are mixed. After such terrific set dressing, it’s disappointing to see a touch-tone phone with no cord., and to have Sidney dial a number and speak before anything can realistically happen. When Sidney is supposed to be rifling through desk drawers they appear and sound empty. The power cord is tucked under the electric typewriter rather than snaking its way down and under the desk.

Give this show a chance to settle in, and it should be satisfying enough as a last-minute stand-in for a show that didn’t make it to the stage.

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm Saturdays; through April 15

2 p.m. Sundays

Where: Theatre in the Valley, 10 West Pacific St, Henderson

Tickets: $10 - $15 (www.theatreinthevalley.org, 702- 558-7275)

Producer: Theatre in the Valley; Director: David Ament; Set Design: Rick Bindhamer; Lighting and Sound: Alex Baal, Rick Bindhamer; Props: Lois Brown, Joan Vogel; Stage Manager: Ellen Radcliff

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