A modern classic, Deathtrap by Ira Levin, will play June 1-4 and 7-10 at Fort Smith Little Theatre. Directed by Micki Voelkel, the comedy thriller stars a cast of FSLT veterans in this 1978 hit that ran on Broadway for four years and was later adapted into a 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon. Levin (1929-2007) is best known for his novels Rosemary’s Baby and the Stepford Wives.
It’s October 1978. Sidney Bruhl (Duff Taylor) is a brilliant playwright who wrote the classic thriller The Murder Game 18 years ago. His successive plays have been commercial failures and money, supplied by his rich wife Myra (Tina Dale) is growing short. One morning while working in his study decorated with weapons used in his theatrical productions, Sidney receives a play in the mail written by Clifford Anderson (Charles Belt). Clifford, one of Sidney’s students in a summer workshop, has written a masterful play destined to rival Dial M for Murder, Angel Street, and The Murder Game itself. Can Sidney resist the temptation to knock off the younger playwright and pass off Deathtrap as his own work? Will his neighbor, Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp (Rikkee Black), see his true intentions? Will Sidney and Myra’s attorney Porter Milgram (John Hall) suspect Sidney’s actions? To reveal any more would be to spoil the roller coaster twists and turns that made the play legendary.
Voelkel originally submitted Deathtrap for the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 lockdown led to the cancellation of the show a few weeks before auditions. “Three years late, but just as exciting,” Voelkel notes. “Deathtrap has been a favorite of mine since I saw the original production on Broadway when I was just 15 years old. While I’ve often performed in murder mysteries and thrillers, this is my first time directing one.”
Voelkel does ask one favor of FSLT patrons. “I hope patrons will not reveal the secrets of Deathtrap to others so that those who attend future performances can enjoy the surprises and twists.”
Actor Duff Taylor is enjoying taking on the towering role of Sidney Bruhl. “I’m very excited to play someone who has so many levels of characterization. Sidney appears to be self-confident, humorous, loving and creative. Yet beneath this thin veneer lurks another person whose secrets consume him,” Taylor says. “I’ve never had so much fun with a character as I am having with this playwright in the midst of a dry spell. The thriller is filled with dark humor and mental whiplash turns.”
Charles Belt was not familiar with Deathtrap before auditioning for the show. “Micki directed The Graduate which was my first play at FSLT and it was a wonderful experience! When I found out she was directing again, I couldn’t wait to audition. After being cast, I was happy to discover that I love this play and can’t wait for opening night.”
In the role of Helga Ten Dorp, Rikkee Black is enjoying new challenges: “She is so fun and outside of any character I’ve ever done. She is pushing my comfort level and helping me grow as an individual and as an actress.”
Playing the role of Myra, Tina Dale commented, “I’m so happy to be back on stage at FSLT as part of this suspenseful production. In every scene, I feel like there is so much happening just beneath the surface, going unsaid but portrayed just the same. I’m sure our patrons will really enjoy the ride.”
“The five performers in this show are exceptional,” says Voelkel. “There were so many talented performers at auditions that it was hard to narrow them down. This particular group of performers has not only individual talent, but chemistry that lets them work together and create scenes that go beyond what any of them could do individually. It’s a joy to watch.”
Deathtrap is for more mature audiences due to implied adult situations, use of weapons and simulated gunshots. The show is not recommended for audience members younger than 13.
Deathtrap opens June 1 with additional 7:30 pm performances scheduled for June 2-3 and 7-10. A matinee will be performed at 2 p.m. Sunday June 4. Tickets for the opening night performance are $20; all other performances are $12. For Season Flex Pass patrons, seat selection will begin at 7:00 a.m. Saturday, May 20. Tickets will go on sale to the general public beginning 7:00 a.m. Thursday, May 25. Tickets and seat selection are available at fslt.org or by calling 479-783-2966 (extn. 2).