Deathtrap Is a Bloody Bore

Karen Gail Kessler as Helga Ten Dorp

Karen Gail Kessler as Helga Ten Dorp

With a story that features more twists and turns than a roller coaster, you would expect Deathtrap to be a thrilling ride. Instead, what the Community Players have assembled turns out to be a bloody bore.

Playwright Sidney Bruhl (C. Richard Koster) lives with his wife Myra (Michelle Walker) in a secluded country house in Connecticut. Bruhl has written successful thrillers, but developed a severe case of writer’s block and sees no way to overcome it, until one of his former students sends him a play called Deathtrap.

Sensing an opportunity for another huge success, Bruhl invites the writer, Clifford Anderson (Jeff Ararat), to his home for the purpose of making improvements to the play. Bruhl tells Anderson he wants to be a co-author in order to benefit his career.

And then….

I should note the walls of Bruhl’s home are adorned with all types of weapons – knives, axes, guns and swords. Since the plot of Deathtrap involves multiple acts of deception, betrayal and murder, it’s no spoiler to say that some of them are used at one point.

Deathtrap could have been a compelling dark comedy, yet under the direction of Brian Mulvey, the story never comes to life. The pacing is too slow, almost laborious at times. The audience should be on the edge of their seats for a show like this. Instead, the tiresome proceedings only inspired boredom.

I also found some of the performances disappointing. Koster tries hard, but didn’t quite succeed at making Bruhl a fun villain. He seemed to be underplaying the role, which takes a lot of zest out of Ira Levin’s sometimes witty dialogue. As the conniving Clifford, Ararat lacked energy and charisma. He was adrift most of the time.

Some of the better performances include Karen Gail Kessler’s, who had a lot of fun playing the Bruhl’s neighbor, an eccentric psychic named Helga Ten Dorp. Rick Braun played Bruhl’s attorney. Braun displayed some terrific comic timing as he barked insults at Helga in the Bruhl house. For the first and only time, I felt some crackling energy from the performers onstage. It would have made a great first scene in the play. It was the last scene of this one.

Deathtrap runs through January 17. The Community Players. Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division St. Pawtucket. For tickets, call 401-726-6860.

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