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MCT's 'Deathtrap' is a Non-stop Thrill Ride

Aug. 15, 2017
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Photo credit: Paul Ruffolo

Now almost 40 years old, there’s good reason why Deathtrap remains Broadway’s longest-running thriller: It’s a nonstop thrill ride for the audience. And Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s solid staging only underscores the fun in being frightened and outwitted just when we think we know what’s going on.

“Nothing recedes like success,” laments renowned playwright Sidney Bruhl to his wife Myra. Poor Sidney hasn’t had a Broadway hit in 18 years; now one of his seminar students, Clifford Anderson, has written a great play first time out. Yep. It’s called Deathtrap. What would someone actually to do be a success… again? Lie? Steal? Murder? Deathtrap not only entertains and thrills for its two-and-a-half hours (with 15 minute intermission), it raises questions as to who we really are. 

The five-member cast serves the play well, as does director Michael Cotey. Unlike the strictly serious 1982 movie with star casting, Cotey and company pull out the underlying humor in this very clever mystery.

As Sidney, Bill Watson perfectly captures the cultivated arrogance—as well as the deep-seated insecurity—of a man reduced to living off his wife’s money. Susan Spencer, best known for her singing prowess, gets her acting chops just right with the tightly wound, Stepford Wife-ish Myra. In separate comedic turns, Mary Kababik is hilarious as psychic Helga Ten Dorp, and David Sapiro makes Sidney’s uptight, too-proper lawyer, Porter Milgrim, a stark focus of comic relief given the grim goings on. Even his laughter elicits our laughter. And when these two fine actors finally get a scene together late in Deathtrap, we ask ourselves: Who knew murder could be so funny? But it’s Di’Monte Henning’s enigmatic yet engaging performance of the ambitious Clifford that really galvanizes this production. There are many layers to Clifford, and Henning deftly reveals them in frightfully surprising ways.

Whodunit? I’m not telling. That would spoil all the scary fun of seeing Deathtrap. 

Through Aug. 27 at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit milwaukeecfhambertheatre.org.

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