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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

arts review theater

COLUMN: Local, professional actors deliver energetic and mesmerizing rendition of ‘Deathtrap’

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SPOILER ALERT: This column contains potential spoilers about the play “Deathtrap.” 

Muted stage lights open on the construction of a quaint, yet sophisticated interior of a wooden home. In one corner, a mini bar sits with bottles of amber-colored liquid. The other end of the set displays a fireplace, while the room is quiet enough you could hear a pin drop.  

The set design for Constellation Stage and Screen’s production of Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap” play is intimate and haunting. Swords, guns and other forms of weaponry sit against the far side of the room, as a blood-stained red adorns the chairs and walls. This adds an extra layer of suspense to the already eerie play about murder.  

“Deathtrap” tells the story of playwright Sidney Bruhl, whose inescapable writer’s block leads him to commit a series of murderous crimes. With plot twists in almost every scene, the tragic comedy is action-packed and can be difficult to pull off for this very reason.  

The five actors in Constellation Stage and Screen’s production manage to pull off murder and mayhem with hilarious wit and ease, though.  

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Lead actor Mark Coffin plays Sidney with a pompous and sophisticated spirit that leaves audiences both entertained and disgusted. This disgust is well placed, though, considering that he’s a conniving murderer and greedy bastard.  

Coffin’s role is enriched by Greta Lind, the wonderful actress who plays Sidney’s wife, Myra Bruhl. Her happy-go-lucky attitude excellently bounces off his debonair dexterity for scheming.  

As the two actors dance around the idea of murder and success, a snappy John Drea skips into the scene. The charming, wide-eyed actor plays Clifford, a student whose play Sidney wants to steal and take the credit for writing. Drea doesn’t miss a beat in his portrayal of Clifford. The animated innocence he dawns at all times gives him an unmistakable naivety that makes him the perfect murder victim.  

Despite an act as forthright as murder, each character is played with enough subtlety that any little fit of rage packs a real punch.  

Just as the first act begins to lag, Helga ten Dorp enters the scene. Played by Bloomington-native Mary Carol Reardon, this secondary character is enthralling. The quirky Dutch woman is a psychic and arrives quite spectacularly at the Bruhl’s home because she senses danger.  

Reardon’s portrayal of Helga is hilarious and wonderfully executed. She moves around the space with animated hand gestures, exaggerated facial expressions and an amateur Dutch accent that’s both endearing and silly. 

Just as everything falls into place, a major turn of events reveals that Sidney and Clifford have been in cahoots the whole time. The plot twist is violent and terrifying, with near-perfect timing and a brilliantly choreographed fight scene.  

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With such an energetic end to act one, act two seems to lag as audiences are introduced to Sidney’s lawyer. Played by Steve Scott, Sidney’s lawyer is formal and portrayed with a perfectly-acted air of arrogance. His presence manages to add an extra layer of depth to the new dynamic between Sidney and Clifford.  

Little by little, tensions rise as the two partners in crime realize no one can be trusted — not even each other.  

Coffin and Drea play off each other’s energy with a friendly banter that could turn sinister at any moment. As things escalate, Drea plays clueless so well that I’m surprised again and again at how masterful the character of Clifford is at scheming.  

In a final, climatic ending of terror, audiences are left feeling shocked and thoroughly entertained. The small cast of actors managed to pull off a difficult-to-master mix of suspense and comedy. Thanks to thrilling performances, audiences are guaranteed to leave “Deathtrap” with sore sides and heightened senses.  

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