THEATER REVIEW – ‘Deathtrap’ is a wild mystery

Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl, Lisa Bostnar as Myra Bruhl and Nicholas Wilder as Clifford Anderson in “Deathtrap,” playing through July 14 at the Peterborough Players. 

Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl, Lisa Bostnar as Myra Bruhl and Nicholas Wilder as Clifford Anderson in “Deathtrap,” playing through July 14 at the Peterborough Players.  COURTESY PHOTO PETERBOROUGH PLAYERS

 Joyce Cohen as  the “Dutch Psychic” Helga Ten Drop and Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl.

 Joyce Cohen as  the “Dutch Psychic” Helga Ten Drop and Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl. COURTESY PHOTO PETERBOROUGH PLAYERS

Nicholas Wilder as Clifford Anderson and Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl in “Deathtrap.” 

Nicholas Wilder as Clifford Anderson and Gus Kaikkonen as Sydney Bruhl in “Deathtrap.”  COURTESY PHOTO PETERBOROUGH PLAYERS

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Published: 07-03-2024 12:02 PM

Modified: 07-04-2024 7:44 AM


The first thing the audience notices when the curtains open for the Peterborough Players production of “Deathtrap” is weapons: battle axes, maces, handcuffs and knives dangling from a chandelier – all artfully arranged in what appears to a writer’s study.

Posters (“window cards,” sniffs main character Sydney Bruhl in the second act) of murder mysteries and thrillers line the walls: “The Murder Game,” “The Murderer’s Child” and “Gunpoint.”

According to Chekhov’s rule of foreshadowing, if there is a gun hanging over the fireplace in the first act, it has to be fired by the third, and “Deathtrap,” an inside-out, wild ride of a murder mystery, keeps this promise. It’s impossible to predict where all those weapons arrayed on the walls are going to end up, but rest assured, nearly every single one of them will all have their moment.

The longest running murder mystery/comedy on Broadway, “Deathtrap, ” which won a special Edgar Award by Mystery Writers of America, was written by Ira Levin, author of “A Kiss Before Dying,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives.” Levin’s exceptional talent for suspense is evident in “Deathtrap,” which kept Tuesday night’s preview audience gasping in surprise.

It’s evident from the the first few moments of “Deathtrap” that anything can happen. Director Aliah Whitmore, who is the third generation of her family to be a part of the Peterborough Players, accurately describes “Deathtrap” as a “rollercoaster of suspense and humor.”

“Deathtrap,” which plays until July 14, stars many longtime Players favorites, including Lisa Bostnar as loyal wife Myra Bruhl, a hilarious Joyce Cohen as Helga Ten Drop and Gus Kaiikkonen as struggling, has-been playwright Sidney Bruhl. Peterborough Players newcomers Kurt Zischke as the “fifth character,” pretentious attorney Porter Milgrim, and Nicholas Wilder, as the dashing young writer Clifford Anderson, round out the cast. Kaikkonen and Wilder also recently starred in in “Noises Off!”

“Deathtrap” takes place in 1978, a world of electric typewriters and landlines, corduroy pants, fabulous wrap dresses and floor-length velveteen vests. Players Marketing Director Christy Keefe notes that “Deathtrap” was a delightful challenge for props supervisor Emily Allinson and costume designer Bethany Mullins.

“Emily has done a phenomenal job. All those weapons look absolutely lethal, but they’re actually quite safe,” Keefe said before Tuesday’s dress rehearsal. “And our costume shop was so excited to bring out the vintage clothing from the ‘70s.”

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At his lovely estate in rural Connecticut, Bruhl, a formerly famous playwright who hasn’t written a hit for 18 years, admits to his wife Myra that his writer’s block is showing no signs of relenting – to which Myra responds that her money, which has been keeping the couple afloat, is finally running out.

When a former student of Bruhl’s sends him an astounding script in the mail, Bruhl sees a way to reclaim his former glory. The Bruhls invites the young playwright, Clifford Anderson, out to Connecticut to discuss the script. Myra asks her husband the unthinkable question in the early moments of the first act – “Would you kill someone to have another hit play?”

Complicating the couple’s plotting is the appearance of a celebrity neighbor, Myra Ten Drop, “The Dutch Psychic,” who has a propensity for showing up unexpectedly and announcing to all and sundry “I AM PSYCHIC!” Swirling around the Bruhls’ living room while promoting her upcoming appearance on “The Merv Griffin Show,” Ten Drop, sensing something is very wrong at the Bruhls, gets her predictions just enough right to put everyone on edge. Milgrim, the attorney, appears as the voice of reason, but whether he buys the Bruhls’ plotting or suspects foul play, no one knows.

“Deathtrap’s” twists and turns will delight.

To purchase tickets, or for information about the Peterborough Players season, go to peterboroughplayers.org.