Twists and Turns Highlight THE DEADLY GAME

by Walter Bender

Ana-Maria Arkan, Paul McNair in a scene from THE DEADLY GAME. (Photo credit: Sara Stewart)

Stagecrafters opened its latest production, THE DEADLY GAME, on Friday April 13th. THE DEADLY GAME tells the story of four elderly gentlemen who meet regularly to dine and exchange stories. As the show opens, we are transported to a villa in the Swiss Alps sometime in the mid-1950’s. The Judge, Defense Attorney and Old Man are gathered, chatting, playing chess and waiting for their companion. There is a knock at the door, and Howard appears, asking for assistance as his car is stuck in a snowdrift. He is welcomed into the home, and invited to join them for dinner. While he is freshening up, the Prosecutor arrives, and the gentlemen discuss whether Howard might be a suitable participant in their evening’s plans. Howard returns to their company, and after much food and drink, agrees to join them in their mock trial. As the evening progresses and the trial begins, the events take a more sinister turn.

Director Yaga Brady has assembled a cast of veteran actors for this production. Jack Roe is The Judge, the host of the evening, Paul Diferdinando is The Prosecutor, Nick Lutwyche is the Defense Attorney, and Mike Mogar is The Old Man. They are joined by Paul McNair as Howard Trapp, Ana-Maria Arkan as Nicole, Greg Pronko as Pierre, and Mary Ann Domanska as Helen.

Roe is very solid as The Judge, playing the jovial host and the stern judge equally well. Deferdinando keeps the action moving as The Prosecutor, as his examination of the defendant is the main thrust of the play. McNair is the prototypical Ugly American, his arrogance and self-absorption evident. Mogar does a very nice job in a role that offers little in terms of character in the lines. Arkan and Pronko both do nice work as the servants, alternately being solicitous and stern when necessary.

The set for this production is beautiful, setting the scene very well. At times, however, it seems a bit cramped with the entire cast on stage. Scene lighting attempted to shift focus to different places on the set, but a lighter hand on the board might accomplish that better.

The ebb and flow of the show is lacking at times…there were several instances where one of the characters would suddenly shout a line without any discernable motivation. The chemistry among the actors was a bit off at times as well. Hopefully as the production continues, this will smooth out. And, one note for Mr. McNair…there are many other things you can do with your hands other than point.

There is a lot to like about this production, but there are rough spots that need to be smoothed out. Repetition may correct these issues.

Written by James Yaffe
Adapted from the novella “The Breakdown” by Friedrich Duerrenmatt
Directed by Yaga Brady
April 13-29, 2012
8130 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 247-8881

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