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BWW Review: DEATHTRAP at San Luis Obispo Repertory

BWW Review: DEATHTRAP at San Luis Obispo Repertory
Michael Brusasco as Sidney Bruhl and Melinda Parrett as Myra

"Baby, it's chilling inside!"

San Luis Obispo Rep's craftily staged production of Deathtrap, a comedy thriller, delivers on the foreshadowing promise of its opening dialogue: "One set, five characters. A juicy murder in Act One, unexpected developments in Act Two. Sound construction, good dialogue, laughs in the right places." Deathtrap's stage action runs like an intricately laid out fox hunt where the audience as the pack of hounds follows continuously forking trails of red herrings. And it's delightful.

David Linfield's set design draws the audience into the cozy rural Connecticut writing studio of the famous playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Michael Brusasco) now suffering a bad case of writer's block. One of Bruhl's playwriting students, Clifford (Cameron Parker), has sent him one of the only copies of a thriller he's written; Clifford is alone in the world. How desperate is Sidney Bruhl to get his hands on a new hit play? His wife, Myra (Melinda Parrett) looks at him with grave suspicion, or is she just the suspicious sort?

Knives, pistols, and cross-bows dominate Bruhl's famous-writer decor: some weapons are non-functioning props, souvenirs of Bruhl's Broadway hits; others are functioning antiques. If you sense that the weapons indicate trouble ahead, you would be absolutely correct. The play challenges the audience to figure out the how and the who and the why of it all.

As Sidney Bruhl, Michael Brusasco reconciles his character's witty charm with his insufferable smugness--it's a balance that makes the performance captivating. Melinda Parrett, as his wife Myra, responds with physicalized emotion to her husband's shifting moods and his barely suppressed fury. Parrett's interesting listening skills as an actor give texture to the whole production. Cameron Parker (as the aspiring writer Clifford) throws a captivating bit of volatility into his role. Zoia Wiseman as German psychic, Helga, and Tom Ammon as Bruhl's lawyer, Porter, interject humor into this comic thriller.

Skillfully crafted stage direction by Kevin Harris kept the audience in a state of tension to the very end. The people seated near me came out of their seats several inches and gasped at one of the scares. It may never snow in San Luis Obispo, but you'll be reaching for the hot cocoa after this chilly evening inside.

The show plays until November 17 at San Luis Obispo Repertory. Check it out!

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