Murder à la Pinball Machine, or DEATHTRAP!

by Lila Achuff

No need to concern yourself about dozing off during DEATHTRAP at The Players Club of Swarthmore because it ain’t gonna happen! In fact, if you’re sitting next to a stranger (or two), you might want to forewarn the individual(s) that you’re not responsible for your hands flying away from you because of a few jolting surprises throughout the evening. This production is not for the faint of heart. Director Bohdan Senkow, you sure know how to make the audience jump!

James Meinel (Collingdale) as Clifford Anderson, with Lori-Nan Engler (Malvern) as Myra Bruhl and Michael Steven Schultz (Swarthmore) as Sidney Bruhl, in DEATHTRAP, at The Players Club of Swarthmore through February 26.

DEATHTRAP, by Ira Levin (1929-2007), is considered the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway having enjoyed a four-year run beginning in 1978. The film adaptation followed four years later. As a point of reference, think of the horror film, “Rosemary’s Baby”, based on his 1967 best-selling novel. Remember that one? Time for Netflix?

We find ourselves in the country home (out in the sticks, of course) of Sidney Bruhl (Michael Steven Schultz) and Myra Bruhl (Lori-Nan Engler), the “Mrs.” with the money. Sidney is well known as a mystery writer but of late he’s been slow to produce another hit. However, a young man he has influenced in writing, Clifford Anderson (James Meinel), has himself come up with a play entitled “Deathtrap” which Sidney deems it to have the potential for becoming a sure-fire success. Sweet Mrs. Moneybags suggests that her husband invite Clifford over for the purpose of collaborating (wink, wink) on the play so that the names of Sidney and Clifford would both end up on the final product and, subsequently. everyone would get rich. All the action takes place in the study where all the weapons used in Sidney’s past plays are prominently and visibly displayed on the walls.

Since I don’t want to spoil all the excitement this show provides, suffice to say that there are so many twists and turns that occur throughout the play, hence my use of the phrase “pinball machine” in my title as it is analogous to the way we are driven from one murder to another. Meanwhile, Myra is so naïve that she just never realized how deceitful, sinister and evil Sidney could be. BUT, it all becomes a game of one-upmanship so we never quite know who has the upper hand till it’s upon us.

Now, doesn’t everyone have a psychic for a neighbor who also happens to be nosy and pushy? Enter Helga ten Dorp (Kathleen Coll Senkow). And we also have a well-intentioned attorney, Porter Milgrim (Alan Harbaugh). Put all these characters together and just when you think you know what’s happening, you don’t.

Overall, the performers seemed very comfortable in their roles so the play ran very smoothly. As a comedy, know that sometimes it simply seemed hokey and silly. Therefore, often we’re laughing either because something is genuinely comical or it’s nervous laughter. For example, “I’m only laughing because I almost knocked out the person next to me as you just scared me half to death.” Whatever. It’s all entertainment.

Come help celebrate The Players Club of Swarthmore in its 100th season! We’re so fortunate to have a theatre to go to in our own neighborhood.

Until the next show…

by Ira Levin
Directed by Bohdan Senkow
February 11 – 26, 2011
Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Road
Swarthmore PA 19081
610 328-4227

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