“deathtrap” — Not to be Missed at RVP

With a talented cast and a solid script by Ira Levin, cleverly directed by Chloe Bronzan, the audience at the Ross Valley Players January 20 performance of deathtrap could only be riveted to every scene – just as these two critics were.

This well-constructed mystery thriller was given the perfect touch of comedy and suspense by cast members Amber Collins Crane (Myra Bruhl); Gregory Crane (Sidney Bruhl); Bryce Smith (Clifford Anderson); Marsha van Broek (Helga ten Dorp); and Tom Reilly (Porter Milgrim).

Though the time was placed in the early 1960s, the set (intricately-designed by Tom O’Brien and masterfully-constructed by Michael Walraven) was a timeless lodge-appearing study in the Bruhl home, with stained-glass French doors leading to another room, and stairs for additional action and which led to the upstairs part of the house. The fireplace and wood-paneled walls in the study were adorned with an interesting collection of lethal weaponry, and just enough furnishings — a writer’s desk and two chairs, a small liquor cart, and a casual chair for relaxation.  The Property Design was wonderfully executed by Dhyanis Carniglia with ample room stage-center, stage-right and left for great fight scenes (choreographed by Richard Squeri).

The (fear-inducing) music set the tone throughout and was quite well-chosen by Sound Designer Bruce Vieira, and the Lighting Design by Tina Johnson added excellent immediacy to the action and scene changes (all of which were seamless).  Costuming (by Michael A. Berg) alternated between stylishly retro and timeless.

There were many character highlights, all of which were enhanced by Dialect Coach, David Abrams and, otherwise, a few of which include:  Character actor Marsha van Broek, superb as the psychic Helga ten Dorp – she put fear in the hearts of the Bruhls. Gregory Crane was wonderfully diabolical, outstanding in his self-deprecating humor, his earnest personality and natural responsiveness as Sidney. Amber Collins-Crane was excellent in her portrayal of Myra the smart, direct and wisely cautious, sweet (terrified) wife to Sidney. Clifford Anderson gave his all as (innocent) Bryce Smith, and gave the audience a glimpse into his fine acting ability. Tom Reilly was excellent to the end, as Attorney Porter Milgrim, bringing his own twist to this multi-faceted thriller.

Chilling action highlights were numerous, and we aren’t going to spoil the suspense for you.  When you see the production of deathtrap, remember to listen for a few of these memorable lines and phrases that will make more sense to you as you’re laughing and shaking with shock:  “I’ll beat you to death with the Thesaurus.” “This may be dull, but it’s sharp!” “Turn, press, and pull.” “Thrilleritis malignus!” “The sloth team wins a Gold Metal at every Olympics.” “Concatenation.”  “Vasser/versa.”

By Elle Alexa Simon
With Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic, San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle

Graphic Design by Mark Shepard

 “deathtrap” runs at Ross Valley Players Barn Theater until February 17, 2019.  Performances are Thursdays (7:30PM); Fridays and Saturdays (8:00PM); and Sunday Matinees (2:00PM). Talkbacks with the Director and Cast are on Sundays, January 27 and February 3, following the Matinees.  For Tickets: go online to www.rossvalleyplayers.com or call 800/838-9555, and tickets for School Groups, call 415-456-9555, ext. 3.  All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Ross.

Coming Up Next at RVP will be These Shining Lives, March 8th through 31st, 2019, by Melanie Marnich and Directed by Mary Ann Rodgers.