Back in the day Sierra Madre Playhouse audiences could count on lots of mysteries in each season’s line up. When Christian Lobano took the reigns as SMP’s artistic director several years ago he veered away from thrillers and brought an interesting array of plays to the stage. But with the current production of Ira Levin’s hit play, “Deathtrap,” he has returned to those roots. Also, directed by Lobano, this show offers a fun and funny thrill ride.
Set in 1978 when earth tones, big collars and boots were hip, Lobano has cast an ensemble that works well together to tell the tale of aging best-selling mystery writer Sidney Bruhl (Christopher Cappiello) anxious to recapture his glory days, no matter what it takes. No spoilers, but this single-set, five-character story has a wealthy of twists involving nervous wife Myra Bruhl (Shaw Purnell), young playwright Clifford Anderson (David Tolemy), psychic Helga ten Dorp (Karessa McElheny) and attorney Porter Milgrim (Don Savage).
Cappiello’s expressive facial expressions are totally in character throughout the piece. It’s always a pleasure to see Savage on the SMP stage. But McElheny’s spot on portrayal of a not completely accurate medium and her perfect comic timing turn up the energy big time.
Speaking of the set, it’s a real gem with great attention to detail by Designer John Vertrees and his assistant Erin Walley. Pablo Santiago’s lighting design is very effective and Barry Schawm’s sound effects are sublime. Loved that thunderstorm!
Any thriller-lover unfamiliar with “Deathtrap” is in for a treat and should not miss this show. But even those who have seen it on stage or the film version are bound to enjoy this production. Tickets are selling fast and several performances have been sold out, so don’t delay.
“Deathtrap” performs 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday through February 20, 2016; additional 2:30 p.m. matinee on February 4. Admission is $30; Seniors (65+) $27, Youth (13-20) $20 and Children 12 and under, $17. Call 626-355-4318 or visit www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Picturesque Sierra Madre has many fine restaurants and shops which would make for a splendid evening out topped with a show.
Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. in Sierra Madre. Free parking is available behind the theater.