Deathtrap – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

James Donadio, Brian Hatch, Mary Lynn Owen. Photo by Georgia Ensemble Theatre

James Donadio, Brian Hatch, Mary Lynn Owen. Photo by Georgia Ensemble Theatre

Who doesn’t love a good crime thriller? With Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, Georgia Ensemble Theatre is staging a strong production of the classic play.

Set in the early 1980s, the play follows an acclaimed writer of mystery thriller plays, Sidney Bruhl (James Donadio), but he is having a bit of a dry spell. When a former writing seminar student sends him a draft of a new play, he becomes jealous and jokes about murdering the young man. However, what is real and what is pretend get turned upside down as the mystery of the events unfolds.

A few references seem a little dated now, but the context of the play holds well even in our CSI obsessed culture. The smartly crafted drama, keeps you guessing what will happen next, and with the detailed set and engaging performances by the onstage talent, the show is compelling and memorable.

Donadio makes the egocentric playwright enjoyable to watch. He brings a sense of vulnerability to the character and makes him a bit likeable and sympathetic, and his interactions with Mary Lynn Owen as his wife Myra are memorable. Owen is good as Myra, but she doesn’t quite make the audience care all that much about her fate. As the young writer, Brian Hatch gives a strong performance. Much of the comedy in the play comes from Shelly McCook, who plays Helga Ten Dorp, a psychic. And, James Baskin provides a brief cameo appearance as Bruhl’s lawyer.

Directed by Robert J. Farley, Deathtrap is an exciting production. Farley has elicited great performances from the on and off stage talents. But, the pace of the show seems a bit slow, and the long pauses in between scenes cause the play to loose momentum at times.

The set, designed by Jonathan Rollins, is detailed, and that visual aids the production tremendously. From show art on the walls to priceless antique weapons, everything on stage adds to the story. In addition, Mary Parker has created a lighting design that compliments the production well.

Deathtrap plays at Georgia Ensemble Theatre through November 24, 2013. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website or Our Now Onstage listing. The show’s runtime is about two and a half hours with an intermission.

– Kenny Norton