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a Thriller
by Ira Levin

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4514

SHOWING : November 07, 2013 - November 24, 2013



Go ahead, scream a little – it’s good for you. This wickedly clever thriller is filled with twists, turns, shocking moments and plenty of laughter. Sidney Bruhl, a successful writer of Broadway thrillers, is struggling to overcome a "dry" spell when he receives a script from a student. Sidney devises a devilish plan, with his wife’s help, to collaborate with the student. We soon discover that the playwright is prepared to go to any lengths to alter his fortunes, even murder. What "Psycho" did for the movies, Deathtrap did for the theatre – this is a must see!

"It is a classic thriller, a genre with a style, a manner and an audience of its own. If you like thrillers, do see it. I promise you that it is vintage."
— NY Post

Contains mature content and some colorful language.

Director Robert Farley
Porter Milgrim James Baskin
Sidney Bruhl James Donadio
Clifford Anderson Brian Hatch
Helga Ten Dorp Shelly McCook
Myra Bruhl Mary Lynn Owen
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The Frowning Wife
by playgoer
Friday, November 8, 2013
"Deathtrap" is a cleverly constructed thriller by Ira Levin that perhaps started the trend toward self-referential stage works. Act one concerns a conceived play called "Deathtrap" and act two concerns the collaborative writing of that play. There are all sorts of plot twists, ending in the middle of a final twist.

I saw a preview performance of the play at Georgia Ensemble. Things I hope get changed before the show formally opens are these:
• The sound gets fixed. The initial announcement’s sound level was modified in mid-announcement, and scene-defining sound was a muffled rumble that occasionally sounded like music was trying to break through in the background. One thunder effect covered a line of dialogue.
• Lighting operation is improved. There was one unexpected light change that looked like the electricity was failing, but it occurred an act before such a failure was supposed to occur. The lighting design, by Mary Parker, was otherwise quite effective.
• Actor James Baskin is encouraged to lower his chin. He appeared to be playing to the balcony through much of his short stage time.
• At least five minutes is removed from the running time. Things will tighten naturally during the run, but a running time over 2.5 hours is a bit long.
• The program is corrected to have a scene breakdown and to correct the spelling of "Master Electrician." (Bryan Rosengrant ain’t no "mater.")
• The phone receiver is replaced after act two, scene two. Shelly McCook did it during her time onstage, but she shouldn’t have needed to.
• A rotary phone is considered for use instead of the touch tone phone. While touch tone phones existed in 1978, when the play was written, they didn’t become truly popular until the 80’s.
• The partner desk drawers are made to work more easily. Even the set changing crew seemed to have some difficulties, and James Donadio did a great job of dealing with their balkiness.
• James Donadio is encouraged to take on a less elderly sounding voice. His character takes part in strenuous physical activity in act two (with nice fight direction by Matt Felten), and the voice he uses at the start of the play makes him appear more frail than wiry.
• Audiences will applaud at the end of each scene. There aren’t many, and the scene ends are pretty obvious. With all scenes clicking along at their proper pace, applause should arise naturally.

Correcting technical and nit-picking details is part of the purpose of preview performances. Judging a production on those details wouldn’t be fair. There’s nothing drastically wrong with this show, and a lot that is fine as it is.

The set, designed by Jonathan Rollins, fulfills all the needs of the script, which describes it in some detail. Particularly effective are the bare tree branches above the skylight that tremble during the thunderstorm. The barn-like trusses making up the ceiling also give a nice architectural feel to the space.

Elizabeth Rasmusson’s costumes are fine, I suppose, but don’t really give a feel of 1978. The two older men (Messrs. Donadio and Baskin) wear timeless fashions, but the other three in the cast don’t seem to reflect the same time period. Helga Ten Dorp (Shelly McCook) has an idiosyncratic style, but I couldn’t date it. The costumes aren’t the visual equivalent of the attractive set.

The actors are all talented. Shelly McCook has a funny stage presence and good timing with her lines (likely to become great timing during the run). Newcomer Brian Hatch plays his role with energy and directness. James Baskin clearly embodies the stuffiness of his character. James Donadio is especially effective in his silent, snarky moments at the start of act two. Mary Lynn Owen is perhaps best of all, reflecting all the nuances indicated in the script, including the "frowning wife" effect.


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