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'Deathtrap' at Oregon Stage Works

The longest-running comedy thriller ever produced on Broadway is coming to Oregon Stage Works. When Ira Levin wrote "Deathtrap" in the style of mystery writer Agatha Christie, the play became famous for its startling plot twists.

"Deathtrap" opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29 and runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 1, at Oregon Stage Works, 191 A St., Ashland. Previews will be held at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 27 and 28, for $15.

Dennis Klein directs the story of Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful playwright now suffering from writer's block. When a former student sends him a brilliant script to look over, Bruhl invites the young man for a visit, planning to kill him and pass the play off as his own. But the visit does not go as expected, and soon the plot spins comically — and frighteningly — out of control.

"Deathtrap" was made into a movie in 1982 and starred Michael Caine, Dyan Cannon and the late Christopher Reeve. "A show like 'Deathtrap,' that has had such wide appeal as a film, and a hugely successful stage play has a few inherent problems," Klein said. Many audience members remember the movie and are always comparing the performance they are watching on stage to the actors they saw on the screen.

"This can be a problem, but it can also work to the advantage of a good cast," he said. "If the cast does, indeed, hit their marks, then the audience becomes even more appreciative, the cast receiving kudos from their own performance as well as from the performances in the film."

"Deathtrap" remains Levin's best-known play, although he also won considerable fame as a novelist. Several of his thrillers, including "The Stepford Wives" and "Rosemary's Baby," were turned into hit motion pictures.

For Klein, the continued popularity of "Deathtrap" is due to the fact that a good story is a good story, and it never loses its appeal. "The audience gets a dual show, a comedy and a thriller," he said. "Those two elements are exactly the reason we enjoy theater so much. The balance of comedy and suspense are beautifully written into the script. Ira Levin managed to give audiences a good scare and a good laugh. Who can argue with that? Actors love the two polar opposites of this show. It gives them a chance to sharpen two distinct skill sets. This cast has done the balancing act with great style and grace."

Klein returns to OSW after directing "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shksp (abridged)" and "The Scheme of the Driftless Shifter." A Bay Area transplant, he received a Shellie Award in 2007 for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts. Klein serves as OSW's Board President.

"I have been involved in several mysteries prior to this show, 'Dial M,' 'Accomplice,' 'Agatha Christie's Mousetrap,' and 'Cards on The Table.' In my experience, never have I seen a cast so acutely aware of the two elements (comedy and suspense). They have accepted the challenge and crafted the show so professionally."

The cast of "Deathtrap" features OSW veteran Sam King, last seen in "Glacial Genes" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." Joining him is Dayvin Turchiano ("Witness for the Prosecution," "Orphans"), who also appears in short films by a local production company, Illustrated Sandwich. Fellow cast member Jennifer Miller-Brian, who acted professionally in San Francisco and New York City, returns to OSW after "The Trip to Bountiful" and "The Great American Trailer Park Musical."

Also in the cast is Rochelle Savitt, know from her roles in "The Trip to Bountiful" and "To Kill A Mockingbird." Savitt came to OSW after appearing with the South Coast Repertory and Stop-Gap in Southern California. Cast member Brian Wallace ("Witness for the Prosecution," "To Kill a Mockingbird") also worked in theater, TV and film in Los Angeles before moving to the Rogue Valley.

The production's stage manager is Laurie Ann Reynolds. Set design is by Brian Wallace, with Rowdy Yates joining him on set construction. Sound design is by Jackson Campbell and light design by Lisa Marie Malovoz. Donna Klein is costumer for the production. J. C. Cook and Eric Kresh are in charge of props. Set painting by Charles Couraud.

Tickets are $20 and $12 for students 21 and under. Tickets are available at the Music Coop, Ashland and at oregonstageworks.net. Special $15 general admission discount tickets are available the first two weeks until Feb. 8. There will be a Valentine's Day show as well.

Call 482-2334.

Sam King and Brian Wallaceappear in the Oregon Stage Works production of 'Deathtrap.' - Oregon Stage Works