"Deathtrap," Ira Levin's Tony award-nominated play-within-a-play begins with Sidney Bruhl, a past-his-prime playwright hungry to craft the perfect thriller and revive the glory days of his previous success. When one of his writing students (Clifford Anderson) presents Bruhl with a flawless script titled "Deathtrap", Bruhl switches from crafting the perfect thriller to the perfect murder. The washed-up Bruhl invites Anderson to his house to "edit", but his suspicious wife (as well as we, the audience) expect a far darker encounter.
And yet, though that is how the play begins that is certainly not how it finishes. The conventional unfolding of suspense is thrown into a roller coaster ride of lies, betrayals and desires. We will not give away any of the plot twists but boy do they keep on coming! Levin tricks the audience into feeling like they know the formula of a thriller and then derails them mercilessly. Throughout the play we heard many a grown man yelp, and we observed audience members clutching their chairs. The suspense is interspersed with dark humor and plenty of steamy moments in what producer Jon Imparato calls in the release one of the "hottest, sexiest" interpretations ever.
The intimate, five-row theater center amplifies every lightning flash, creaking door and suspicious glance. Somehow the richly decorated living room -- adorned, of course, with an array of antique weapons -- even smells like a real cottage home. Brian Foyster plays playwright Bruhl with a devilish charm, and Cynthia Gravinese plays his doting wife, making us wonder if she really is as innocent as she appears. Burt Grinstead gives a dynamic and energetic rendition of Anderson, and Liz Herron provides comic relief as the kooky yet clairvoyant Russian psychic next door.
The play, directed by Ken Sawyer, will make you gasp, laugh and probably sweat a bit. "Deathtrap" will run until May 6 at the Davison/Valentini Theater at The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Lily Tomlin / Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Program. Visit lagaycenter.org/theater for details.