At the height of my tennis career, if I watched a professional tennis match on TV, I immediately would want to grab my racket and head for the courts, filled with energy and inspiration. That is how I felt after watching Great Lakes Theatre’s production of “Deathtrap” written by Ira Levin and directed with robust insanity by Charles Fee. No, not to play tennis, but hit the boards and act my face off.
Great Lakes Theater is Cleveland, Ohio's professional classic theater company. Founded in 1962, Great Lakes is the second-largest regional theater in Northeast Ohio. It specializes in large-cast classic plays with a strong foundation in the works of Shakespeare and features an educational outreach program. The company performs its main stage productions in rotating repertory at its state-of-the-art new home at the Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square, which reopened on September 20, 2008. The organization shares a resident company of artists with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which current Artistic Director Charles Fee engineered. Great Lakes Theater was formerly known as Great Lakes Theater Festival, which continues to be its legal name. “Festival” was dropped from the classic theater company’s business name to better reflect its September through May season, and programming format.
Written in 1978, “Deathtrap” holds the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway, and was also nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Cunningly clever and comically twisted, “Deathtrap” is a murder mystery masterpiece that keeps you on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out where the madness ends. When a once successful Broadway playwright struggles to overcome a dry spell that’s resulted in a string of flops and a shortage of funds, anxiety ensues. His fortunes turn when one of his students shares a brilliant new script with blockbuster potential. Resolved to resurrect his collapsing career, the covetous playwright conceives of a treacherous trap to snare the script and take credit for its creation. Murderous machinations result, springing to a surprising conclusion.
The technical and creative elements of this production deserve strong accolades. Scenic Designer Russell Metheny knocks it out of the park with his single set masterpiece. Sound and Lighting Designers, Richard B. Ingraham and Rick Martin, provide razor sharp effects to greatly enhance this journey of whodunit and what the……! Costume Designer Alex Jaeger provides terrific visions of town and country, popped collars, psychic eccentricity, and dwindling wealth.
The professional actors of this company deserved, and received, a standing ovation. The cast is a classic exhibition of great casting and actors at the top of their game. Watching Sidney Bruhl (the delightful Tom Ford) navigate through his plotting and chicanery, is like hopping on a mechanical bull and just holding on for dear life. Tracee Patterson (Cleveland’s answer to Meryl Streep), brings emotional chaos, conniving realness and misplaced loyalty to Myra Bruhl. Nick Steen enters the picture as Clifford Anderson, the student/secretary, with superhero looks and acting chops that deftly create a sense of innocence, greed, cunning, and eventually horror. Helga Ten Dorp, the neighborhood psychic, is played with comedic bliss by Lynn Allison. She inhabits Helga with a dramatic sense of “ah ha” moments, that would certainly move her to the front of the line for “the next AHS supreme”. Aled Davies adds just the right touch of classic and comedic flair to the suspicious, and opportunist attorney Porter Milgrim.
This cast is a blast. I felt like I had only been in the theatre for a half an hour, because the pace is excellent. I wish I could have joined them for happy hour for act three. Get yourself out to see this show. It is a delightful whodunit which serves up an evening of artists to cherish.
Kevin Joseph Kelly2/21/14
Staff and Cast:
Director: Charles Fee
Lynn Allison - Helga Ten Dorp
Aled Davies - Porter Milgrim
Tom Ford - Sidney Bruhl
Tracee Patterson - Myra Bruhl
Nick Steen - Clifford Anderson
Tickets and Press
February 21 - March 16
1:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays (no matinee on 2/22)
$13-$70 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square
2067 East 14th St.
Cleveland, OH 44115