The cast of the Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production of “Deathtrap.”
If you think I’m going to tell you whodunit, or even who did what to whom in “Deathtrap,” Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s latest production – much less, when, where, or how – fuhgedaboudit.
It could have been Sidney Bruhl (Rick Bronson) – washed up, dried out, and put away mystery playwright – in the study with the battle-ax. Or maybe it was the old battle-ax herself, Myra Bruhl (Barbara Anthony), in the hall with the double-edged sword.
Then there’s the double-dealing Clifford Anderson (Kevin Bangos) who might have done it in the garden with the gun. Or maybe it was that pistol of a neighbor, psychic Helga Ten Dorp (Robin New), in the foyer with the dagger, or the cutthroat lawyer, Porter Milgram (Toby Manion), in the living room with the noose.
Suffice it to say that several in the audience shrieked and jumped in their seats at one point, and that the twists and turns of this thriller roller coaster all over the place.
With almost 1,800 performances, “Deathtrap,” written by Ira Levin whose novels include “The Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby” and who also wrote the play “No Time for Sergeants,” remains the longest running mystery on Broadway. Early Bird’s fun, fast-paced version kept the audience guessing. In fact, the final applause seemed slightly delayed as folks tried to decide whether that really was the end or whether there they were being thrown yet another curve.
The same could be said for Early Bird Dinner Theatre itself. After 16 years of catering to fraternal clubs, condo associations and women’s groups, director Robin New told the audience that Early Bird will be moving in the fall. “Deathtrap” is the final production in the current location.
Set in 1979, the references to typewriters, carbon paper and that new-fangled invention, the copy machine, make this work border on being a period piece. A hug that was shocking when first performed – the actors involved in the movie version reportedly struggled with whether or not to include it – still drew a reaction from today’s audience. The opening performance had its rough spots where actors seemed unsure of their lines, but their choreographic and comedic timing was right on.
Worth mentioning is the “Deathtrap” set, which provided a different dining atmosphere than what Early Bird patrons usually experience. Its foreboding colors, blood-red curtains, flickering fireplace and wall sconces, and framed weapons collections, as well as an excellent selection of music, tinged the air with suspense.
So you’re dying to know what happens? Sorry, you’ll have to unravel these knots for yourself. Forgive me while I leave you … hanging. In the dark. Without a clue.
“Deathtrap” plays through June 18 at the Early Bird Dinner Theatre, 1411 N. Ft. Harrison Ave. in Clearwater. Dinner seatings are Thursday through Sunday at 4 p.m. with 11 a.m. matinees on Thursday and Saturday. The buffet includes six hot entrees, various side dishes and salads, dessert, and beverage; a cash bar is available. The price is $14.95 plus tax ($16 total); no credit cards or checks. Call 446-5898 for reservations.