Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe


Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
Review by Rob Spiegel

Michelle Volpe Roe, Dehron Foster,
and Ronda Lewis

Photo by Russell Maynor
Deathtrap is a 1978 play by Ira Levin that holds the record for the longest-running comedy-thriller in Broadway history. The set up is fun. Sidney Bruhl (Dehron Foster) is a once-successful playwright who is suffering from a string of failures that have rendered him completely blocked. Along comes a script from one of his summer workshop students and it's perfect: a five-character mystery, also called Deathtrap, that take place in one setting. Levin's Deathtrap itself is a five-character play in one setting.

Sidney is insanely jealous over this excellent play by his student, Clifford Anderson (Nicholas Johnson), and grumbles to his wife Myra (Ronda Lewis) about its superb quality. She immediately suspects that her frustrated husband is toying with the idea of killing the young playwright so he can claim the play as his own. Sidney insists he is merely seeking the possibility of collaborating with Clifford on the play. After extended bickering, Sidney picks up the phone and makes the call to Clifford. He's nearly delirious with gleeful and devious anticipation as he dials the 1978 rotary phone.

This is a comedy-thriller, so we're braced for nefarious motives and devious behavior, and we know to expect twists, surprises, and reversals, but the first act delivers more than expected. As Clifford makes his appearance in the Bruhl home—presumably to discuss possible edits to his "perfect" play—dark clouds begin to form. As the drama builds, the surprises begin to pop.

The first act ends with a bang, so to speak, and maybe not so so-to-speak. Since Sidney is a mystery playwright, the walls of his workroom are covered with weapons old and new, from pistols and crossbows to swords, knives, and daggers. Remember what Chekov said about the rifle above the fireplace—well, Deathtrap doesn't disappoint the Russian master. The second act is fun, but not quite as filled with the shocking power of the first.

Along the way, we meet two new characters, a German psychic named Helga ten Dorp (Michelle Volpe Roe), who can see the future, kinda. Her prognostications are like her accent, difficult to follow. But the snippets we can actually understand are intriguing. Some seem preposterous, but all are worth considering. We also meet Sidney's attorney, Porter Milgram (Mike "Eddie" Dethlefs), who sports one of the most unforgettable comb-overs imaginable.

Director Colin A. Borden does a fine job moving the action along. He's supported by Producing Artistic Director Victoria J. Liberatori. He also receives support from scenic designers Claudia Azumendi and Bradley Rose. The lighting by Cody Kelien and sound by Borden himself are strong, particularly late in the second act during a storm. Borden also designed the costumes. The stage manager is Angela Salazar, with assistance from Henry Roe.

The production and the performances are strong. Standouts include Foster as the irrepressible Sidney and Volpe Roe as the tornado of a comic Helga. Whenever she appears on the stage, the energy level spikes.

While Deathtrap enjoyed great success in the late 1970s, even getting made into a 1982 movie with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, it struggles to make the leap into 2018. Some of the humor and camp that were surely fun 40 years ago ring a tad clumsy today. Even so, this is a nice production of a play full of unexpected twists.

Deathtrap, through June 10, 2018, at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, 3011-3015 Monte Vista Blvd, NE, Albuquerque NM. General admission is $22. Performances take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm. ATG members and seniors 65+ are $20. Service members, first responders, and union members are $19. Students are $15. Reserve tickets at or by calling 254-7716.