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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 18, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Dwight Martin, top, plays Sidney Bruhl, and Jesse
Michael Mothershed is Clifford Anderson.

Male leads
in ‘Deathtrap’

Bullet Deathtrap: At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, through June 4; Manoa Valley Theatre. Tickets $20, $10 for under age 25. Call 988-6131.

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


NO writer worth reading would betray the public by revealing the surprises playwright Ira Levin intends to be part of the experience of "Deathtrap." The show is 22 years old and a bit problematic in spots but it's entertaining overall and looks like a hit for Manoa Valley Theatre. Jesse Michael Mothershed and MVT Producing Director Dwight T. Martin do fine jobs as Levin's protagonists, fading playwright Sidney Bruhl (Martin) and talented novice Clifford Anderson (Mothershed).

As for the plot, well, here's the starting point: Bruhl became the toast of Broadway with the success of a meticulously crafted whodunit. Several flops and 18 years later he's doing little more than leading seminars at writers' conferences. To make matters worse, he and his wife, Myra (Betty Burdick), are maintaining their lifestyle by spending down her financial assets. They can't go on like that forever.

Then Bruhl receives a script for a two-act thriller titled "Deathtrap." The playwright is Anderson, an alumnus of one of Bruhl's writers' conference seminars. Would Mr. Bruhl be so kind as to critique the script?

The script is so well written that "Deathtrap" is not only a sure thing for Broadway but almost certainly a successful movie as well. A phone call later Bruhl knows that no one but he and Anderson knows that the script exists. If Bruhl were to kill Anderson he could shop the script as his own work and rake in the profits thereafter.

Bruhl invites Anderson to a meeting so they can go over the script. But is he serious about killing Anderson? His wife thinks he may very well be.

Mothershed does an excellent job as Anderson and surpasses even his recent work as Bud Frump in Diamond Head Theatre's "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." Mothershed smoothly adjusts for each twist and turn in the plot. It is overall a local career-best performance for him and astute casting by director Roger Long.

Martin's other responsibilities generally keep him behind the lights at MVT. "Deathtrap" is a rare and satisfying exception. Martin and Long create a Bruhl that is never someone to sympathize with but certainly a fine character study.

Jana VanDerlinden was an instant hit last night as the zany and stereotypical Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp; she got laughs in all the right places. Greg Howell does a fine job opposite VanDerlinden in the final scene as the Bruhls' starchy lawyer.

Paul Guncheon (set design) has outdone himself in creating Bruhl's solid and elaborately appointed study. Darren Hochstedler (lighting design), Jason Taglianetti (sound design), Shell Dalzell (technical director) and Tony Pisculli (fight choreography) share credit for the effects that heighten the impact of key moments in this entertaining and unpredictable story.

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