Thursday May 23, 2013

DUMMERSTON

I experienced something at the Vermont Theatre Company production of the comic thriller "Deathtrap" that I’ve rarely experienced at live theater before.

It was a good old-fashioned, chill-up-the-spine, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-my-neck scared feeling, the kind that makes a good horror film such a visceral thrill.

And if that were the only reason to go see "Deathtrap" it would still be enough. It’s quite a thing to experience that much exciting raw sensation at live theater.

But there’s so much more that’s good about the Vermont Theatre Company production of Broadway’s longest-running comic thriller. Simply put, it’s pure fun and entertainment that blends murder, mayhem, mystery, acerbic humor and an engaging script with plenty of twists and turns and clever play-within-a-play touches into a killer night of theater.

"Deathtrap" tells the story of a famous writer of comic thrillers, Sydney Bruhl, who tries to break out of a career slump by taking a former student’s manuscript and calling it his own. His plan to murder the author and steal the script takes more unexpected twists and turns than a backcountry dirt road. How it all plays out is something you’ll have to see for yourself.

Jonny Mack walks a masterful line as Sydney Bruhl, by turns caustic and charming, diabolical and wickedly funny. Faring just as well with a deceptively complex character is Elias Burgess as Clifford Anderson, the wide-eyed young playwright with, perhaps, more up his sleeve than we know. Nancy Groff provides much-needed comic relief -- and a little dramatic tension -- as Helga Ten Dorp, the friendly neighborhood psychic. M. Beverly Miller plays Bruhl’s dutiful wife Mrya, and Francis Hauert rounds out the cast as Bruhl’s attorney, Porter Milgrim.

Director Ben Stockman deserves praise for making sure this complex play walks all its delicate lines carefully, while still packing a powerful punch. I also liked James Gelter’s unusually configured set design which had the effect of placing the audience close to the action. The other technical aspects of the show were crisply executed when I saw the play last Saturday night.

Performances of "Deathtrap" continue Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m., at the Evening Star Grange.

Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the VTC box office at 802-258-1344 or emailing vtcreservations@gmail.com.