By Paul Kolas
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER
DEATHTRAP; written by Ira Levin, directed by Jack Neary. At Foothills Theatre Company, Worcester Common Outlets mall, 100 Front St., Worcester. Performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 25. Tickets $26.50-$32. Call (508) 754-4018 for reservations.
With Peter Bubriski, Chris Loftus, Donna Sorbello, Bobbie Steinbach and James Bodge.
WORCESTER- Ira Levin's fiendishly clever hall of mirrors thriller "Deathtrap" has been served up with crisp and engaging vigor by Foothills Theatre Company.
Director Jack Neary's taut direction, and his resourceful cast and crew, held Sunday's audience captive with Levin's tale of hubris, deceit, treachery and seemingly inexhaustible plot permutations.
"Nothing is as it seems" is certainly a coda that applies to the story of a once successful playwright of thrillers, Sidney Bruhl, desperately seeking to revive his flagging career by stealing a young protege's "gifted director proof" play, and even killing him in the process.
Please don't feel anything vital has been revealed here, because from that incipient contemplation and deed, Mr. Levin takes us through multiple layers of unveiling surprises that shock as well as amuse.
In a prescient way, "Deathtrap" now seems a quaint precursor to reality TV, where the story writes itself as real life events unfold. What distinguishes it from the weary banality of such modern-day pop culture fodder is its wit and inventiveness.
Considering that Peter Bubriski (Sidney Bruhl) and Chris Loftus (playing the ambitious young playwright Clifford Anderson) had only one week to rehearse together before the show's opening, they've managed to create a palpable rapport with each other.
Mr. Bubriski captures Sidney's inflated ego with throwaway ease. He is truly a man in love with his own reputation, a victim of tunnel vision straining to be as clever as possible.
In a way, he's a mixture of Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" - living in the past and confusing it with the present - and one of Hitchcock's sinister characters, up to no good and self gain.
Mr. Bubriski conveys all these attributes with style, nuance and bravado. Mr. Loftus matches him in intensity, and as the play's many twists unfold, his chameleon persona adapts convincingly right along with them.
The rest of the cast surrounds these two with fine support. Donna Sorbello plays Sidney's wife, Myra, with both the empathy and consternation her part calls for. She finds the right note of emotional ambivalence regarding Sidney's horrific scheme.
James Bodge is also excellent in the small but crucial part of Sidney's lawyer, Porter Milgrim, who suspects things are remiss in the Bruhl household.
Then there is Mr. Levin's scene stealer, the irrepressible, inimitable, and clairvoyant next-door neighbor, Helga Ten Dorp, played with disarming style by Bobbie Steinbach. Every inflection of her broken English stumbled its way triumphantly to the one-more-trick-up-its-sleeve finale.
The set is a rustic fun house of swords, knives, handcuffs, even a crossbow, and special mention is deserved for Jason J. Rainone's effective lighting design and Edward Thurber's startling sound effects.
Even the antiquated references to David Merrick and Joseph Papp fail to keep this "Deathtrap" from being a contemporary pleasure.