Marsha Mason Returns to Bucks County in DEATHTRAP

by Walter Bender

Saxon Palmer and Raviv Ullmand in a scene from DEATHTRAP. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

Ira Levin’s DEATHTRAP holds the record for the longest-running comedy-thriller in Broadway history, and was nominated for a 1978 Tony Award for Best Play. This long-running thriller continues to pack them in, as evidenced by the latest production at Bucks County Playhouse.

DEATHTRAP opens in the country home of Sidney and Myra Bruhl (Saxon Palmer and Angela Pierce). Sidney is a playwright, suffering from writer’s block after a series of box office flops. He tells Myra he’s just read a play written by a former student, Clifford Anderson (Raviv Ullman) and it’s a certain hit. He implies that he might kill Anderson and steal the play, frightening his wife in the process. Later, Anderson arrives to talk to Sidney about the play, and…

This was an interesting production. Director Evan Cabnet had to mold very disparate acting styles together to make a cohesive show. Palmer was almost stereotypical as the fading playwright…British accent, calm demeanor hiding a certain evil. Pierce was the opposite as a scenery-chewing deliberate Myra. Ullman was understated as Anderson, providing yet another contrast for the audience. The “name” in the production, Marsha Mason, was comedically over-the-top as the psychic Helga Ten Dorp, giving the audience a thrill with her presence and laughter with her portrayal. Rounding out the cast in this 5-character, one-set comedy is David Wohl as Porter Milgrim, the lawyer who helps arouse Sidney’s suspicions about Clifford’s manuscript.

Saxon Palmer and David Wohl in DEATHTRAP. (Photo credit: Mandee Kuenzle)

The set is beautiful, the study of an upscale cabin in the woods, with posters of Sidney’s many plays adorning the walls, as well as his collection of weapons…some of which play very heavily in the action. The fight choreography needs a mention…very tight, realistic, and in some cases very unnerving. Lighting was functional, after some pre-show issues resulting in a delayed curtain.

All in all, this is a fun evening of theatre…even with the somewhat dark elements, it’s a comedic delight, and the performances are wonderful.

Comedy-Thriller by Ira Levin
Directed by Evan Cabnet
June 19-July 13, 2014
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S Main St,
New Hope, PA 18938
(215) 862-2121


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