Alert: There will be no spoilers in this review

Want spoilers on Ira Levin's 1978 play-within-a play Deathtrap? Go see Powerhouse Theatre’s 50th season opening play.

Those darn spoilers. They are everywhere these days: On blogs, social network sites, YouTube, Smart phones, and at the collective watercooler.

Despite the spoiler alert tag, people just can’t help themselves. Even though we should know better, we can’t help in revealing how a story ends, who killed whom, what happened to Mark Darcy in the new Bridget Jones novel, or where alleged terrorist Nick Brody is hiding on TV’s Homeland.

Yes, it’s irksome.

That’s why I feel I cannot give you a proper review of Powerhouse Theatre’s 50th season opening play, Deathtrap.

I don’t want to spoil it for you. And besides you can just go see it, or look it up on the Internet. After all, the comedy-thriller  is one of the longest-running, non-musical plays to run on Broadway, and it was written by Ira Levin, author of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby,  so there’s a ton written up about it.

But I suggest you don’t go there. Go to the theatre instead as there are many fun twists and turns in this play-within-a-play. The element of surprise is what serves the story.

What I can say is if you love the pompous characters from an Agatha Christie novel, you’ll love the lead here in washed-up playwright Sidney Bruhl.

Played by the devastatingly funny Jackson Mace, whose facial expressions are worth the admission alone  (Mace is on double duty here as he also directs the play), Bruhl is a bitter man who hasn’t had a hit in 18 years since his thriller The Murder Game was staged.

All he does is moan about it as he directs his critical tongue towards his doting, “frowning” wife, Myra.

In a great turn by Powerhouse newcomer Jennifer Goodsell, Myra/Goodsell has one heck of a set of lungs on her… Yes, she screams, a few times. (That’s not giving anything away, is it?) as she realizes the horror of her husband’s obsession with writing another hit.

Enter young upstart, Clifford Anderson (another great performance from a Powerhouse newcomer, Robert Hillier). He is one of the “twerps”, as Bruhl calls them, who has taken a writing workshop with Bruhl at the local college. Clifford has a play he wants to show Sidney and so he shows up in his work boots (the kid needs a fashion intervention) in the dead of night at the Bruhls’ home with only one copy of his thriller, Deathtrap.

The fun continues as Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp (played by the delightful, scene stealing Sybolla Franje), who is staying next door to the Bruhls, stops by for a visit as she has had a vision of someone in pain in the house.

This, and more, happens in the first act.

The second act plays out more as a whodunit (did someone die? I’m not telling!) as the mystery unravels and the characters get deeper in the mucky muck when Sidney’s lawyer Porter Milgrim (the always reliable Doug Fairweather) arrives with some news and advice for his client.

OK, that’s just about all I can say without giving anything else away. Call it vague, but what I can say is you will be entertained and you will laugh at the antics of this crazy bunch.

Also to be mentioned is the set, designed by Eugene Leveque, showing the inside of the Bruhls’ rural  Connecticut home. Full of antique weaponry, classic posters from past thrillers, framed with post beams and a flagstone fireplace, it serves the eerie setting well especially when lightning strikes.

And that’s just a wee spoiler.

Deathtrap continues at Powerhouse Theatre tonight and Saturday and Nov. 12 to 16 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee this Sunday and Saturday, Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, ticketseller.ca.

—  Kristin Froneman is the arts and entertainment editor at the Vernon Morning Star.

 

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