Playception: Death Trap is wild


Tannen Holt, Staff Writer

I’ve never been a fan of watching plays. I’ve been doing theatre since I was seven, but despite my passion for acting I’ve always hated being the one in the audience. I suffer from something us performers call ‘stage envy.’ You go to a concert or some other type of theatrical and can’t help seeing yourself onstage. “Pffft I could’ve done that better” or “Dude this guy is so lame,” you get the point. You start to become over critical because you can’t help seeing yourself in the spotlight.

But Death Trap kicked ass. No lie, probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The plot was insane, the actors were amazing, tech was on point, and the play was just all around funny. But even crazier, it had so many trippy fourth wall breaks and hints at the characters being aware that they were in a play. “Death Trap refers to itself a lot.” Said lead actor Nathaniel Hasse, who played Sidney Bruhl. “There’s a lot of references to the fact that it is a play. It’s by far one of the best written plays I’ve ever performed.”

Death Trap is focused on an older, slightly irrelevant playwright named Sidney Bruhl, who lives with his wife Myra (Astrid Berger). It has been over 18 years since his last successful play and he is dying to break onto the scene. One day Sidney gets a letter from a former student of his, in which is a play. An amazing play, the best Sidney has ever read. A play entitled ‘Death Trap.’ Sidney invites the young playwright, Clifford Anderson (played by the Southerner’s very own Oliver Hall) over for dinner so Sidney can give him advice and revisions. Sidney leads the audience to believe that he intends on killing Clifford. He does. Myra freaks out and tells Sindey to move out by the end of the week. The doorbell rings and you are introduced to Helga Ten Dorp (Natashia Otiso), the Bruhl’s psychic neighbor, who gives a prophecy about death and a man wearing boots.

She leaves and Sidney and Myra continue talking. But all of a sudden Clifford bursts through the door and beats Sidney to death with a stone. Clifford begins slowly approaching Myra, when she has a heart attack and dies. But then Sidney gets up and he and Clifford exchange a kiss. Turns out they’re gay lovers and planned the whole thing. Sidney throws the play (which is revealed to be nothing more than old manuscripts) in the fireplace. And that was the end of act 1.

In act 2 we meet Porter Milgrim (Cor Barnhill), Sidney’s lawyer, who is there to discuss Sidney’s will after Myra’s death. Since act 1, Clifford has moved in as a “secretary” and he and Sidney share a workspace where they work on their individual novels. Sidney discovers that Clifford is writing a play called Death Trap, which retells what happened to Myra, but all the characters have different names. At first, Sidney is furious, but he eventually agrees to help Clifford write the play. Sidney double crosses clifford and attempts to shoot Clifford in the head with a gun. However, Clifford foresaw this and loaded the gun with blanks. Clifford handcuffs Sidney to a chair and leaves. Sidney escapes the handcuffs and grabs a crossbow, calls out to clifford and shoots him.

The audience hears Clifford yelp from offstage. Sidney sits down and begins to call the police to tell them what happened, when Clifford sneaks in from backstage and strangles Sidney to death. The last scene of the play is Porter and Helga walking through the events of Sidney and Clifford’s deaths, as well as every detail of the entire story before then. Porter gets the idea to write a play about it. He and Helga begin to bicker about who will write it, and eventually Helga grabs a knife, then the lights go out. The end.

Death Trap was an experience. The play had an “inception” sort of feel. Throughout the play characters made subtle hints to the play. At one point in the play Sidney asks Cliff why he “has receded so far off stage.” Also there’s the matter of who ends up writing the play at the end. Sidney is dead, but Clifford is never actually seen dying. He has a blood stain in the middle of his chest from the arrow, but you don’t know if it kills him in the end. It could have been him. Or Porter, or Helga.

And then there’s the fact that throughout the play there is the creation of four scripts for Death Trap, which tell the story of what happened in the play. And then there’s the play you’re watching. Death trap is a play about the creation of a play, which is about the creation of a play, which is about the creation of a play, all sharing the name Death Trap. It’s really just mind-blowing.