IF YOU GO
What: Murder-mystery playwright gets a great script in the mail, then plots to steal it.
When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through April 7
Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island
Cost: $25 & $23
Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com
Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall next to the Marco Island brewery.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
1055 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
MARCO ISLAND — I could spend days explaining the plot of "Deathtrap," the final show of the Marco Players season. I won't. Suffice to say it thrills, it chills, characters talk in funny voices, disappear, re-appear with weapons when you least expect it and made the man behind me kick my seat in shock. Three times!
Always check the body yourself.
"Deathtrap," from Ira Levin, takes the concept of thriller and executes it brilliantly. A writer, sitting in his study, receives the script for "Deathtrap," a new play. He invites the writer over to discuss the work, then kills him.
Or does he?
A shocked wife looks on.
OR DOES SHE?
The show twists like a politician's mind - maybe even a Florida politician's mind (if you can find it!). Every setup, like Greg Madera's deliciously naughty Sidney Bruhl caressing a wall full of murder weapons used in TV, stage and film adaptations of his work, leads to an obvious end that's really a blank wall. The misdirection occurred three steps back when no one was looking.
You'll go mad trying to unravel the clues tucked nicely amidst the insignificant details that the author and director Dave Elliott emphasize in this vintage, arch, high-Hitchcockian style. I love what Elliott does here, getting his actors to play their stereotyped role to the hilt.
The script's very sturdiness, along with the rapid, twist-a-minute plotting and Elliott's swift pacing, keeps the night moving. I wish the show emphasized the spookier elements of the thriller genre a bit more, although I understand Elliott's decision to opt for madcap pace over trying to build icy suspense when working with amateur actors.
Newcomer Madera brings a goofy charm to his frustrated playwright Sidney Bruhl. There's exactly the sort of creepy ambition there that makes you think "don't let this character get behind you if you've written a good play." Mai Puccio, always a reliable bright spot, charms as excitable wife Myra Bruhl, who perhaps should have kept her own counsel.
Jared Wagner debuts as aspiring novelist Clifford Anderson. He and Madera have exactly the right prickly chemistry that gives their on-stage antagonism an air of believability. The slightly nervous tension and pitched voice are exactly right for the character.
Carole Musgrave comes near to stealing the show as deliberately nutty Dutch psychic Helga ten Dorp (yes, that's a name). She can find lost keys under the dryer, but can't foresee murders in the next cottage, even when she's handling the murder weapons! You'll love the hand-waving and the ridiculous accent. Kip Jones strides in, all elegant suit and shock of white hair as aristocratic lawyer Porter Milgrim, whose keen eye and clubby manner cracks the case.
I'm not sure that the set design exactly captures the feel of "converted stable." The layout requires stairs, an entrance, a bar and patio doors - all in the matchbox that's the Marco Players space. The heavy green and excessive wood make the room feel crowded, like an older, fusty Adirondack resort. Right on cue, the woman behind me comments that it reminds her of "a place in the Poconos."
I like the idea of having the audience stare at the wall of weapons for the entire play, wondering "which one will it be?" but the large space devoted to it limited other staging options. The display needed more variety too - whips, chains, stakes, any gruesome instrument of someone's demise. John Cusack even used a Mont Blanc pen as a murder weapon in "Grosse Point Blank;" this is a chance to be creative.
"Deathtrap" offers a interesting, rather spooky take on thrillers, murders, the craft of writing, marriage, the art of creating and, astonishingly, Dutch extrasensory perception. Admire the way Dave Elliott's show snakes its way through a curvy, loopy plot. And laugh at Carole Musgrave's too-silly Helga ten Dorp as she predicts doom from "a small black man named Smith Colonna."
"You'll be opening up a very messy can of peas." Email me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.