Theater Info for Maryland

Milburn Stone Theatre Deathtrap

By • Jan 24th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
Milburn Stone Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Milburn Stone Theatre, North East, MD
Through January 26th
2:15, with intermission
$18/$15 Students, Seniors/$10 Children
Reviewed January 18th, 2014

As time goes on and years pass some wonderful hidden treasures of the stage seem to fade and disappear. Wonderful works become more ancient. As in the case in Milburn Stone’s durable production of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Deathtrap was a staple for community and dinner theatres everywhere. But lately these little gems of twisted plots, witty, skillful and enchanting dialogue have been replaced by meaningless productions filled with profanity, sex and worthless controversial fabrications. My Hats off to Milburn Stone for trusting the script and the genre of a good old-fashioned murder mystery.

Deathtrap is essentially a play with in a play. Sydney Bruhl, (Mike Ware) an aging has-been playwright of murder mysteries is struggling to come up with his next “Smash Hit.” The money is running out just as is the patience and the romance of his wife Myra (Melanie Bishop). A fresh, sure hit masterpiece script arrives in the mail by a young aspiring playwright Clifford Anderson (Ryan Milliner) who attended and met Bruhl at one of his summer seminars. And thus Bruhl realizes since no one besides him and the young protégé has laid their eyes on the script this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring Bruhl back into the spotlight. The plan is simple, kill Anderson and pass the script as his own. Sound ingenious, Right? Well not really… Bruhl’s plan started a long time prior to the evening that we witness. Secrets, plots, surprises, mayhem and betrayal unfold every minute. Buhl’s plan crumbles by the second with interruptions and complications of a world-famous, eccentric, with great fashion sense self-absorbed know it all psychic Helga ten Dorp (Justine Tucker) and a surprisingly illuminating visit by his longtime friend and lawyer Porter Milgrim (Dan Tucker). As the play progresses we dive deeper and deeper with anticipation into the unexpected, astonishing, shocking, startling and alarming climax of Deathtrap.

The production stays true to its self, Levin’s words and the original vision of the script. And for that I do commend director Andrew John Mitchell. Not everything has to be re-invented, updated or manipulated to the point of obscurity. Mitchell’s staging is creative, well-balanced and imaginative yet still classic. The pace of the show has great timing rhythm and an unfolding flow as needed. Lewis’s set design is brilliant, no detail is missed, every T is crossed and every I is dotted. It is absolutely breathtaking. And his lighting design is as strong as it gets. The costumes, designed by Edwards, are simple and appropriate to the era however some flair to bring the characters’ personalities to life were absent, so much could have been added to complete the picture.

Though this production has leads and supporting roles, the show should most definitely be a collective ensemble undertaking, and here is where this Deathtrap does not quite kill. Ware is a seasoned veteran actor and that is crystal clear to see however I felt like I was watching a one-man show (and not a very good one), Ware constantly upstaged his fellow actors, pulling away their moments and important significance of their roles. Ware’s over the top flamboyant eccentricity also got old and annoying after the first 15 minutes. There was no reason to care in any way for his interpretation of Bruhl. Milliner on the other hand is a bit wet behind the ears as a leading man, but is most definitely full with potential and promise. There was no lack of focus and concentration on his part, his Clifford was genuine and real, however he never fully made a full circle and growth into Clifford’s evolution and strength. Instead of seeing a mastermind wannabe he at times came across as a youngster following his teacher. Bishop’s choices as Myra are also questionable, she come across as a prisoner of her life with Sydney rather than a woman who is unexpectedly drawn into the madness of a man who she thought was her knight in shining armor. Quirk does well with the challenging role of Helga, however she also chose to go way over the top more than necessary. As old and corny as this sounds, sometimes LESS IS MORE. The finesse, elegance and mystery of the character were lost in the grimacing facial expressions, and humor and plot got drowned with constant egregious arm and body swaying. The saving grace of the acting in this production is hands down the nuanced, down to earth, sincere, authentic performance of Dan Tucker. Talk about less is more! Tucker takes a tiny role and turns into a beautiful skilled performance.

At the end of the day, Milburn Stone has delivered an enjoyable evening of the traditional murder mystery comedy that is missing from today’s theatre’s repertoire. So head out Milburn Stone Theatre and get entombed in Deathtrap!

Cast Of Characters

  • Sydney Bruhl: Mike Ware
  • Myra Bruhl: Melanie Bishop
  • Clifford Anderson: Ryan Milliner
  • Helga ten Dorp: Justine Quirk
  • Porter Milgrim: Dan Tucker

Production Staff

  • Director: Andrew John Mitchell
  • Stage Manager: Serenity Rowland
  • Scenic and Lighting Design: S. Lee Lewis
  • Costume Design: Dane Hutchinson
  • Sound Design: Terry Edwards
  • Properties Design: Eyvo Johnson
  • Exotic Weapons and Firearms Display provided by: SFC Ralph Denton, SR USA (Ret)

Disclaimer: Milburn Stone Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

One Response »

  1. I fixed the spelling of an actor’s name. I apologize for the mistake.