Review: 'Deathtrap' by Two Planks Theater Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

‘Deathtrap’ is a scary comedic thriller by Ira Levin that had a long run on Broadway. It is the show that opens the second full season of the Monroe CT-based theatrical group called Two Planks Theater Company. A good choice for the Halloween season when theatergoers expect to be frightened. 

Two Planks Theater Company (TPTC) is named for the boards that fourteenth century troubadours would lay over their wagons to create the stages on which they brought their stories to life. David and Susan Halliwell founded the group decades ago and it has brought stories to life in various locations throughout southern CT. This summer they presented ‘Hairspray’ and a terrific ‘Avenue Q’ at Wolfe Park in Monroe, but with an appropriate chill in the air, they return to an indoor venue. The United Methodist Church of Monroe, a beautiful church in a residential neighborhood, is where this production is staged. 

Mr. Levin has designed a multi-layered, uniquely crafted play within a play that is full of surprises; at one point I actually jumped. I was also surprised at the amount of comedy that this two-act, five character piece contained. It is a thriller about an aging playwright looking to write his next big thriller that one can follow without intense concentration, but that still packs a punch and looks even better in hindsight. The many references to locations in the state of Connecticut made it all the more enjoyable as we sat in a Connecticut theater. 

David Halliwell has directed his cast with intensity. Will Jeffries (Richard in ‘Time Stands Still’ at TheatreWorks New Milford) brought his wonderful acting skills to the role of playwright Sidney Bruhl; his wonderful speaking voice added much to his character. Mr. Jeffries will be appearing in ‘Chess in Concert’ at the Downtown Cabaret Main Stage one night only on Nov. 14. 

Leigh Katz was convincing in her TWTC debut as his lovely and wealthy wife Myra. Glenn Ghirardi played the role of the young playwright Clifford Anderson (originated by Victor Garber on Broadway) with aplomb. Randye Kaye of STAR 99.9 and WSHU made the most of her broad role as a psychic neighbor named Helga Ten Dorp. Al Bhatt made his theatrical debut as lawyer Porter Milgrim and did it very well indeed. 

The set designed by Brooke Burling combined the elements of danger with an upscale home in the CT woods. Costumes by Susan Halliwell could have been a little more flattering in some cases but were certainly appropriate. Lighting by Rob Primorac was notable, with the lightning and CL&P’s outage in the penultimate scene well done. 

‘Deathtrap’ runs through November 1 and tickets are available online on their website.