The device known as "a play within a play" is common enough to the stage and those who write for it. But "Deathtrap," the fourth offering of the Old Lyric Repertory Company, takes the idea to its extreme.
And in so doing, the OLRC provides an enjoyable light drama, a play often characterized as a comedy-thriller, to round out its season.
Written by Ira Levin, the plot of "Deathtrap" goes like this: It's a thriller about two writers each writing a thriller about writing a thriller, one of which might be the thriller the audience is watching. Sort of.
To tell more would be a spoiler, but for those unacquainted with the Tony-nominated play, suffice to say there are twists and turns and glimmers of clues dropped here and there. And be ready for some loud gunplay.
William Grey Warren stars as Sidney Bruhl, a one-hit wonder in the Broadway playwright scene, who has just about depleted his wife's money when he considers at her insistence collaborating with a young writer. Enter Clifford Anderson (played by Richie Call) who is working on a new play called, yup, "Deathtrap."
The play the pair is writing has all the elements a hit needs, including a psychic next door. And so does the play OLRC patrons are watching, and that psychic is delightfully staged by Keri Larsen (portraying Helga Ten Dorp). Excepting a momentary lapse where her Eastern European accent dropped into a Middle East accent, Larsen is perfect and takes over the stage. Her bombastic characterizations work perfectly, and she becomes an audience favorite.
As Buhl, Warren is the writer who thinks he is pretty smart even sharp and in the opening scene drops quips and asides like a clown tossing candy. Some are too slick and fast, but as the play progresses the one the audience is watching Warren and his many layers become an integral part of the production's success.
Buhl's wife, Myra, is played by Sasha Kaye, who portrays a perfect combination of naivete and nervousness. Buhl's attorney is portrayed by Joe Tisa, who gives his third solid performance. He also appears in this season's "Beau Jest" and "The Dresser."
As seems to be the rule at the Old Lyric, the set design (Shawn Fisher, Jarrod Larsen) was top-drawer. The deep woods look of the Connecticut home almost becomes a character in the play. Only a late start and an overextended intermission marred the opening weekend presentation.But, then, maybe even that was designed to be part of the play the one within the other play.
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