“HOUDINI* OPENED them ten feet under the water... but you can’t!” All of sudden, as soon as Clifford wears the handcuffs, Sidney strangles a thick rope around Clifford’s neck and thin string music is played with fierce piano accompaniment. Full of agony, Clifford struggles to get free from the rope that suffocates him but eventually loses his balance and stumbles over a carpet. Gasping for a breath, Clifford slowly chokes to death… Sidney’s eyes glow in wickedness, revealing the green monster inside.
Disclosure of desire
After its first curtain call in July 2014, Deathtrap is raising its popularity on Daehakro - a trendy place for small plays and musicals. The original screenplay of the Deathtrap was written by Ira Levin in 1978, which was composed only of two acts with three scenes for each act. It was nominated the Tony Award for the best play in 1978 and Levin received his second Edgar Award with this play. Until now, Deathtrap is one of the biggest hits on Broadway and is the longest running comedy-thriller play. It was adapted for the Korean audience by Kim Su-ro, the producer, which premiered at Daemyung Cultural Factory.
As the title of this play implies, the stage is designed as a trap; from the stage, the audience can get a feeling of deathtrap, where someone can easily enter but cannot easily escape. The frame of the stage is shaped as an irregular pentagon, as if leaning to one side and will collapse sooner or later. This insecure design of the stage looks like it is about to strike the audiences and the trapezoid-shaped sliding door, located in the middle of the set makes the unstable view more realistic. Furthermore, the trees at the back of Sidney’s house creates a dreary atmosphere, like a typical thriller stage.
The setting of the play is Westport, Connecticut where Sidney Bruhl, a previously successful playwright, lives with his wife, Myra Bruhl. With consecutive failure of his plays, Sidney has fallen in deep dejection and has trouble with writing screenplays. One day, Sidney receives a script, named Deathtrap, from Clifford Anderson, a student who had once attended Sidney’s lecture. Sidney was sure the script would be a hit, a good chance for him to regain his long lost reputation. Sidney keeps implying to his wife that he may kill Clifford in order to steal the script. With Sidney’s invitation, Clifford arrives at Sidney’s house. Clifford is fascinated by Sidney’s stage props so Sidney encourages Clifford to try on the handcuffs, once owned by Harry Houdini. When Clifford puts them on, Sidney strangles Clifford to death with a rope. However, this is not the end of the play; in fact, it is only scene two of act one. Scene three awaits the audience to startle them with a great twist in the plot.
Who’s killing whom?
The play runs with only five characters. Interestingly, each character has a secret to be disclosed as well as their relationships. Although the relationship between Sidney and Clifford looks like a cat and a mouse, the next scene gives a reversal in the relationship. The audience realizes of Sidney and Clifford, only after the play ends.
Not only the characters’ relations but also the plot of Deathtrap is twisted several times. When the audience thinks that Clifford meets an end with his death, the scene gives a drastic twist. The audience cannot anticipate the next scene or when the play will end. The unexpected flow of the plot keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, never giving them any gap to be relieved.
However, these dramatic twists do not exist only for theatrical purposes. This play actually implies to the desires of humans that never stop to wriggle, deep down in their minds. Through the impudence and atrocity of the characters, Deathtrap shows the extreme side of desire and endless ambitions that every human hides deep down inside. Deathtrap tries to tell the audience that excessive avarice may lead anyone to a miserable tragedy.
A Thriller? Or a comedy?
If Deathtrap only contained dismal contents, it would have suffocated the audience to melancholy. However, the play contains comical elements that bewitch the audience. While the tension between Sidney and Clifford stretches the audiences’ nerves, a sudden comic relief, such as unexpected appearance of Helga ten Dorp, an eccentric psychic in Sidney’s neighborhood, makes the audience giggle.
However, it is not only the appearance of Helga ten Dorp that drives the audience crazy with laughter but also the unexpected ad-libs of the actors. Among the thriller, the actors, who have already become a part of their character, add their own lines of ad-lib and audiences, who did not expect the certain line, burst out laughing. For example, in a scene where Sidney and Clifford are rehearsing for their “Deathtrap”, Sidney makes fun of Clifford’s actions, by calling out the real nickname of that actor. For another case, Yoon So-ho, one of the actors playing Clifford’s role, revealed that his most memorable ad-lib was drinking Sidney’s bottle beer, in act two scene one, when Clifford was not supposed to drink the beer.
Another interesting thing about this play is that the genre of Deathtrap sometimes seems to change depending on who acts as the main characters; different combinations of the actors create different atmosphere of the play. Park Ho-san, who plays Sidney Bruhl focuses more on acute and keen Sidney while Kim Do-hyun, who also personates Sidney, portrays Sidney as cunning and witty author making the audience laugh incessantly. Deathtrap is a good combination of thriller and comedy, not too heavy nor too light. Kim Ji-ho, the director of this play pointed out that he recommends this play because “this play is comprised of marvelous harmony between comedy and thriller.”
* * *
All human beings feel jealous of those who they perceive as superior. This play reveals the hidden desire within humans and implies through the characters a simple message that when humans lose control over their own desire, they will meet a downfall, in the most thrilling way. When the play is over, the audiences realize that Deathtrap means many things; it is the name of the play, a name of the script within the play and, at the same time, the situation that is brought about by desires and ambitions of the characters. In the end, everyone gets caught in the deadly trap of Deathtrap. Why not watch the play and see whether you can slip away from the deathly trap?
Date; July 9, 2014 ~ Sept. 21, 2014
Price: R seat: \50,000/ S seat: \35,000/ Balcony seat: \10,000 (Student discount: 20%)
Place: Daemyung Munhwa Factory, Lifeway Hall
* Houdini (Harry Houdini): Hungarian-American magician and illusionist, noted for his escape tricks
photos contributed by: Asia Bridge Contents