Review: DEATHTRAP at Red Sandcastle Theatre

Now on stage through July 28th, 2024.

By: Jul. 08, 2024
Review: DEATHTRAP at Red Sandcastle Theatre
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I reckon it’s a stroke of producing genius to launch a run of DEATHTRAP, Ira Levin’s classic meta-thriller, on the same day that the Toronto Fringe Festival kicks off. Fringe plays tend to be edgy, experimental, personal, and always of their moment; DEATHTRAP, a sturdy two-acter about a playwright whose idea for a murder mystery becomes reality, is safe, comfortable. Fringe is hot sauce; DEATHTRAP is a fine mayonnaise.

Set in New England in the 1970s, when it was written and first produced on Broadway, DEATHTRAP is the tensely told story of Sidney Bruhl, a struggling playwright whose attention is caught by a former writing student. Bruhl concocts a plot, which turns out to be a plot within a plot, and which leads, eventually, to a plot within a doublecross slathered in self-aware humour. It is a fast-paced show full of action and witticisms, although some of the wit stopped being witty in the last century. 

I think it’s fair to say that DEATHTRAP has aged gracefully, if visibly; some of the cultural references are hard, but not impossible, to track, and the queer storyline is tropey, but hey, at least it’s there.

This production, mounted in the Red Sandcastle Theatre on Queen Street East, is humble and intimate. The set is cozy. The music is Irving Berlin; the set gives Rian Johnson. Although lacking in the grandeur of a larger theatre, the small, dark space of the Red Sandcastle keeps every subtle prop and gesture in plain view of the audience. There is exactly one jump-scare, but it’s a good one.

If you like drama that’s bold and experimental, check out the Fringe. If you prefer to pronounce the-a-tre with three syllables, get thee to Stratford. But if all you want is to enjoy a show with a few great twists and turns, DEATHTRAP may be your best choice in Toronto right now.


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