Tag Archives: Play review

Great Lakes Theater Sets a (Death)trap for Entertainment

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There are some weeks that make me want to crawl into bed and never come out, and I feel like the last few weeks have been that way. It got to a point by the end of last Thursday where I just couldn’t function. Stringing together a sentence that made sense was nearly impossible.

However, I finally had a chance this weekend to recharge. There are two things that help me find my way back to normal. One — relaxing in bed and reading comic books until 10:30 on a Saturday morning. And two — going to see a show.

Theatre, regardless of whether it’s a comedy, drama, musical or play, does something to lift my brain out of a funk. I think it has to do with the fact that the action is unfolding live, in the same room as me. Unlike a two dimensional movie, all of my senses are engaged at a play. The exercise of such incredible focus allows my brain to clear.

Fortunately, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to take in two great shows which I’ll discuss in two posts this week. Although very different, they each provided me with what I needed.

First up was Social Media Night at Great Lakes Theatre. It’s a fantastic program that GLT’s Audience Engagement Manager Chris Fornadel has created, inviting bloggers and active CLE tweeters to learn more about their shows.

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The latest meetup was for Deathtrap, Great Lakes Theater’s current production onstage at the Hanna through March 16.

I’ve written time and again of my love for murder mysteries, and Deathtrap is one of the genre’s masterpieces. It’s not just the longest-running comic thriller on Broadway, but was also made into the 1982 film featuring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. However, in my 31 years, I still had never seen it.

I count myself lucky that Great Lakes’ production was my first time. Trying to figure out the twists and turns is my favorite part of a mystery, and it’s difficult to recapture that feeling on the second or third viewing/read.

And, boy, does Great Lakes’ Deathtrap have a lot of twists. In fact, with so many shockers, it’s the perfect homage to the classic whodunit.

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On the surface, the premise is simple: Sidney Bruhl used to be a successful Broadway playwright. However, he can’t come up with his next big hit. In fact, he’s had so many flops, the money is running out.

It’s just his luck that a former student has written a thrilling script with the potential to make lots of money. He has sent it to Sidney, looking for writing advice. Instead, Sidney hatches a plan (which may or may not include murder) to steal the script.  

Before the show, Cleveland mystery writer Les Roberts spoke about Deathtrap, murder mysteries, and his time in Cleveland. It is always a treat to hear Roberts speak and you can read a bit about his journey to Cleveland in my review of his novel Whiskey Island.

His talk was an excellent way to prepare for the show, and his comment of life imitating art (playwright Ira Levin had a series of unsuccessful plays and movies after Deathtrap) was especially interesting. 

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater's Deathtrap pre-show

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater’s Deathtrap pre-show

We got to try something new with this production’s Social Media Night: tweeting during the show. By placing us in the Hanna Theatre’s boxes, we could tweet without disrupting other audience members’ experience.

Although it was interesting to livetweet the performance, I will admit to being so engrossed in the show’s details that I didn’t tweet too often.

However, these three tweets captured my thoughts on some of the highlights:

I couldn’t find a fault with the performance. The cast and crew made excellent use of an intriguing script. And while Tom Ford as Sidney Ruhl was a treat, Tracee Patterson (Sidney’s wife), Nick Steen (Clifford), Lynn Allison (the psychic Helga Ten Dorp), and Aled Davies (Sidney’s lawyer) made up an airtight ensemble around him. It also balances the murderous mayhem with biting oneliners.

I recommend this production for anyone looking for a good laugh, a little murder, and a lot of surprise. Deathtrap runs until March 16. Purchase tickets here and use promo code GLT to receive a discount.

The season concludes with As You Like It (April 9-24) and the HANNApalooza fundraiser (June 14).  Great Lakes Theater returns in the fall with their 2014-2015 season: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Tempest, as well as Dial “M” for Murder and Les Miserables.

I’ll be back later this week with my thoughts on Theater Ninjas’ [sic].

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Deathtrap Social Media Night in exchange for tweeting or blogging about it. My opinions are 100% my own.