Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Fall into Adobe's Deathtrap
The Adobe Theater
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther

Also see Dean's review of Buyer & Cellar and Rob's review of Hamlet


William Lang and Shawn King
Photo by Jim Cady
I was lucky to see Deathtrap with Marian Seldes and John Cullum in the middle of its 1978-1982 run on Broadway. The Adobe Theater's version, directed by Hal Simons, hasn't changed a thing about the time or place and is a period piece in the finest sense. Set designer Barbara Bock really knows her furniture.

From the electric typewriter to the pearls around Myra Bruhl's (Debi Kierst) neck, we are back in 1970s Westport, Connecticut, where formerly hot playwright Sidney Bruhl (William Lang) lives with his formerly rich wife. The two need a hit play to float them back to the top, but Sidney's long run of flops has nearly bankrupted them.

When Sidney receives a manuscript from a former student, he tells Myra the play is brilliant and a sure thing. She suggests collaboration with the playwright, Clifford Anderson (Shawn King). Sidney suggests murder and mayhem. Myra has a weak heart and her nerves jangle visibly as she realizes her husband is serious. He wants to kill Clifford and take credit for the play himself. When Sidney invites the young playwright to the house, Myra's worst fears are confirmed.

Those familiar with the twists and turns of this play will forgive me for hesitating to spoil it too much for others. Suffice it to say that the audience member sitting beside me almost had a heart attack at the first switch-up. He survived. Myra does not.

Kierst is perfection as Myra, going from cheerful badinage with wordsmith Sidney to abject horror at his actions. She also does a graceful death scene. Let's give a nod to costume designer Carolyn Hogan's dead-on, Connecticut-matron outfit: knotted silk scarf; long, knife-pleated skirt; and the pearls. It's exactly what they used to wear. (Trust me, some still do.)

Lang as Sidney is witty, urbane, and the image of an entitled has-been. He moves gracefully in a writer's world and never overplays Ira Levin's clever lines. King is believable as Clifford, the irrepressible young man who, ultimately, becomes uncontrollable. (Spoiler ahead.) Their relationship is implied and they forgo the kiss that Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve made my favorite scene in the 1982 movie. Later, it is with breathtaking duplicity that Sidney asks his attorney Porter Milgrim (Rick Huff) if he thinks Clifford is gay. It's just another set-up.

Of course, Deathtrap's chips-down star is Helga ten Dorp (Carolyn Wickwire), the psychic next door who keeps butting in when least wanted. She senses what's going on in the Bruhl home and keeps the tension high as the audience fears she'll figure it all out and become the next victim. Veteran actor Wickwire is a master at accents (you might have seen her in Mother Road's Enchanted April) and portrays Helga with proper European restraint. She brings comic relief to the murderous plot.

Through January 31, 2016, The Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, (505) 898-9222, adobetheater.org


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