Broadway’s longest-running comedy thriller, Deathtrap, is a type of play-within-a-play where both productions can be described as “a thriller in two acts, one set, five characters and laughs in all the right places.” The story centers around Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful writer of stage thrillers who has experienced a string of flops. He receives a manuscript written by a student he once taught in a writing class, of a play called “Deathtrap,” which he believes has the potential to be a massive commercial success. Bruhl invites the student, Clifford Anderson, to visit him at his country home, and to bring with him the only other existing copy of “Deathtrap.” The two writers enter into a dangerous and complicated game of cat-and-mouse but the play is not only a classic thriller, it is also devilishly clever, poking fun at writers, critics, producers, directors and the theatrical business itself.
YLT’s production of Deathtrap runs from January 11 – 20 and is directed by Crystal Ganong. “I saw the film version of Deathtrap and just loved it,” explains Ganong. “Ira Levin is an impeccable writer and every word is chosen for a specific purpose.” Ganong has enjoyed helping the cast discover all the different layers to this play. “Seeing them develop all the different ins and outs of their characters has been wonderful.”
The cast of five includes Marisa Hoover as Myra Bruhl, Matthew McLaughlin as Clifford Anderson, Chris Koslosky as Helga Ten Dorp, Wayne Mundis as Porter Milgrim, and Christopher Quigley, who marks his return to YLT after an 8 year absence, as Sidney Bruhl. “I played the part of Clifford in Deathtrap for two years during the 1980s with a New York traveling theatre company called “The Other Vic,’” says Quigley. “It is great to be able to play Sidney. He’s a very complex character–He doesn’t have a conscience but he disguises it very well.” Quigley got his start in theatre at YLT in the 1970s, at the age of 10, as a bird in the window during “A Spoon Full of Sugar” in a production of Mary Poppins. Over the years Quigley has been involved in more than 40 shows at YLT. “It’s good to be back,” says Quigley. “It’s like connecting with an old friend.” Quigley thinks audiences will see more than a simple plot unfolding in Deathtrap. “There is lots of comedy in this show– Comedy is part of the surprise,” he says.
Deathtrap was Tony nominated for Best Play and ran on Broadway for four years. More than 30 years later it remains popular world-wide. With a plot like quick-silver, it is packed with insidious hairpin twists and delightful dread. Are these writers friends, or does one or the other, or both, have murderous intentions? Or is death only ever a disagreement about prepositions? “This play is good fun,” adds Ganong. “It keeps audiences on the edge of their seat with surprises in every scene. But it’s also full of emotion and humor.” The New York Times says the real virtue of the play is that it “doesn’t take itself seriously. All the way through, it’s laughing at itself and the genre on which it is a takeoff.”
Deathtrap is sponsored by Keller Brown Insurance, season sponsor Capital BlueCross, with media sponsor FlipSidePA.com. Performances run January 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and January 13 and 20 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased round-the-clock at http://www.ylt.org, or 854-5715, from 11 – 5 weekdays.
York Little Theatre, celebrating its 80th Anniversary Season, is a nonprofit community theatre which values and nurtures the irreplaceable role of the arts and is dedicated to engaging and enriching its entire, diverse community in the dramatic arts through a broad range of entertaining, stimulating, and sometimes provocative performances. York Little Theatre is located at 27 South Belmont Street, YorkPA, just south of Market Street at the intersection of I83.