Review by Michael Piscitelli
As I sit in my friend’s apartment contemplating the show I had just seen, while listening to her talk endlessly about how cute her dog is, I try my hardest to think about community theatre to drown out her incessant songs of her precious little boy to the tune of “My Favourite Things” from the Sound of Music. There is a certain performative aspect that one gets from improvised show tunes in one’s kitchen, that reminds me of the small things you see in community theatre that make it so personal to those involved.
Many of the people involved in “DEATH TRAP” put a lot of hard work into the show I had seen, and it was very apparent when I witnessed it. The show itself is a thriller about a playwright who feels he is washed up and barely getting by with his rich wife, receives in the mail from a young writer the first draft of a play that he deems perfect and a definite chart-topping success. Being a playwright that writes almost exclusively about murder and thrillers, he describes in detail how he would take the play and pass it off as his own, while killing of the original playwright. He passes it off as him merely speculating, and saying he would never be able to commit such a crime, but one is left wondering if that is really the case.
Set and props builder/designer Anthony Jones built with his team several dozen medieval battle axes, swords, a crossbow and maces to cover the upstage wall and litter the rest of the stage to create the Study of Sydney Bruhl (played by Clive Lacey) a playwright and professor, and his from-money-rich wife Myra (played by Peta Bailey).
Meta theatre is tricky business at the best of times, and keeping your audience from scoffing at the absurdity while keeping them in the world of the play is a fine line to tread.
Thankfully the writing of the show itself doesn’t cross this line too often, and the actors keep you distracted from any absurdity with over the top antics providing a nice change of pace from the seriousness of the rest of the show. Erin Jones, who plays Helga Ten Dorp, a medium who visits the couple periodically throughout the show, brought a lightheartedness that the show needed to keep someone from thinking this show took itself too seriously. She would feel the “pain” of what will come and has already happened all the while feeling up the furniture and objects (and at some points, people) and describes with in detail what will happen to the couple in their own home.
Seeing so much personal hard work put into any show is reassuring to see, and in all honesty – standard in community theatre. Promoting and encouraging the local theatres brings communities together and sometimes is even the stepping stone needed for someone young to decide they want to do it as a living.
Deathtrap will be playing at the Scarborough Village Theatre until July 15th.