Muskoka To-DAILY

‘Death Trap’ a killer play in these right hands

Mark Clairmont | REVIEW

BRACEBRIDGE — The great thing about hit plays is they are deceptively simple — and satisfying.

Earl Sacrey, left, Emma Phillips and James Fairburn will entrap you.

Earl Sacrey, left, Emma Phillips and James Fairburn will entrap you.

Almost anyone can do them. That’s why small theatres do them – and audiences so love them.

DragonFly Theatre is a case in point.

“Death Trap” is one of the most put-on and popular murder mysteries.

It works even by itself — if you read it as a script.

A play about a play, about a play.

A play about a death, about a murder, about a murder, about a murder.

Sounds simple. But put it on stage and you have to know what you’re doing.

On stage, it has to be in the right hands.

DragonFly has done that, thanks to a great play and good journeyman actors.

James Fairburn is Sidney Bruhl, the once successful murder-mystery playwright with writer’s block.

He and his rich, supportive wife Myra (Emma Phillips) invite an aspiring writer and Bruhl fan to their remote home to coach and mentor him on a good “first draft” of a play Bruhl can see is destined for Broadway and even a movie.

Pru Donaldson, always a hoot, tones it down this time and it works better here.

Pru Donaldson, always a hoot, tones it down this time and it works better here.

Earl Sacrey plays Clifford Anderson, the smart, young talent who “even types well,” laments the struggling, jealous Sidney Bruhl.

Is it a chance to collaborate or per chance an opportunity for dire drama, when he arrives with the neat, little murder-mystery winner Bruhl saw in that first draft.

A tidy package in a brown envelope — with luckily just one extra stenciled copy and no apparent heirs in the picture.

So, will Bruhl kill to collaborate or kill to steal the play? His wife bets wrongly on the former and is the first (or is that the second?) actor to leave the stage for good.

She leaves a pair of connivers who both get what’s coming to them.

Fairburn carries the bulk of the first act and does so with ease, setting up the play with pace that looks determined to be solved in a one-hour crime drama.

As a result, some of the best lines are lost in a rushed delivery: “What’s the sense of having a mace if you don’t use it?”

Phillips is altogether engaging to watch and listen to; delivered with seductively simple allure as she dances with death while trying to convince the Clifford that he should be grateful for the opportunity to work with the great Sidney Bruhl.

Jim Dwyer. left, and James Fairburn are reliable actors who deliver each time on stage.

Jim Dwyer. left, and James Fairburn are reliable actors who deliver each time on stage.

But Anderson, the shy, apologetic newbie isn’t sure and thinks his play, ‘Death Trap,’ is “good enough” for the most part.

Then, like a storm clap, in flies Pru Donaldson as Helga Ten Dorp, the eccentric German psychic with all the answers and all the fun lines.

She’s a natural, without overplaying her part, thanks to director Allen Hutchings, who reins her role in.

Then like a knife in the back that twists and turns, so does “Death Trap.”

The second act is more promising, as Fairburn and Sacrey stretch out and actually come to life as they work on ‘Death Trap.’ Both are more comfortable in their new roles that reach well beyond the stage into the audience with strong, believable portrayals that both scare and delight you with their honesty and wickedness.

Jim Dwyer, another veteran Muskoka talent is Bruhl’s skeptical, stuffed-shirt lawyer. His polished acting shows just how it takes more than a great play to pull off a good play.

In the end, though, it’s still Ira Levin’s award-winning play that takes centre stage with its surprising plot twists and funny lines.

But it can’t be done simply without a skiled company and confident cast that has the long history and knows how to do it well within their means. All of the players and contributors, including stage manager Jiana Cutting who assembled an experienced local cast, have been around the Muskoka theatrical scene for years and some decades and it shows here.

A lof of people among the 60-or-so in the sold-out audience Wednesday night were either regular theatre-goers or actors and back and front performers in other plays and musical, and they enjoyed the show.

That tells you something.

DragonFly’s “Death Trap” will captivate you, too.

Catch it if you can this final weekend, April 20, 21, 22, in its dinner theatre setting at the Quality Inn hotel in Bracebridge.

It’s to die for.

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Posted by on Apr 19 2017. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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