Those familiar with the successful Broadway show and film adaption, “Deathtrap,” along with first-time patrons of the production, can see the play-within-a-play, comedy-thriller performed this April and May by the McLean Community Players.
“Deathtrap,” written by Ira Levin, first premiered in 1978 and has since become the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. The plot follows an aging playwright, Sidney Bruhl, who after a successful writing career has hit a dry spell in his craft. He receives a play in the mail from an aspiring writer and devises a plot to take credit for the work. The catch is, nothing is as it seems and plot twists and unusual developments transpire to affect all the characters involved.
The show’s director, Jerry Bonnes, also directed “Deathtrap” 25 years ago. He said that one doesn’t often get a do-over in the theater world, but with the opportunity to direct this play, he’s given a second chance to try different things. Since the last time he directed the show, Bonnes said the technical aspects of putting on a community theater performance have changed, presenting new rewards and challenges. The “other side of the coin” is that the cast and crew have stepped up to take on responsibilities. In addition, technology now allows items such as props, once necessary to comb the local area for, to be ordered by just the click of a mouse.
As a comedy-thriller genre, directors often take liberty in playing up either the comedic or thriller side of the play. Choosing to direct the play as he feels Levin intended it to be performed, Bonnes said he aims to create “a thriller with enough levity thrown in so the audience doesn’t get overwhelmed with the drama that occurs.”
Though the play within the play, “Deathtrap,” is mentioned multiple times in each scene, Bonnes believes it can be “repeated over and over again” without the act becoming tiresome for the audience. He describes this as part of “the genius of it all” because the consequences of the mentioned play give rise to the twists and unexpected turns that move the plot forward.
As the catalyst character behind many of the plot twists, Dan Eddy is making his debut performance with the McLean Players as Sidney. He said that what makes the play engaging for the audience and for himself, as an actor, is that “Deathtrap” is set up so that there is seldom a moment when, “Sidney is actually not doing or saying something opposite to what the others in the play think he intends.”
He describes Sidney as ‘selfish’ and ‘underhanded’, but Eddy feels that one can look at Sidney sympathetically. He understands when his characters’ plans do not play out accordingly, that, “[Sidney] believes he is forced into a position where he must protect himself,” all because of his own fatal character flaw. Despite the events that transpire, Eddy does not believe that his character would consider himself a villain.
“I think Sidney feels like he’s made a difficult and awful choice at the beginning,” Eddy said, “But after that, it gets out of his hands and he tries to pull it back into his control. Is that villainy? I don’t know.”
Eddy leaves theatergoers to answer that question for themselves.
“Deathtrap” will run Apr. 20 – May. 5 at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickers are $14 – $16. For more information, call 703-790-9223 or visit mcleanplayers.org.