June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:16 PM
"This much we know:At least one of the five will die, suddenly and with much shedding of blood.As to who gets the axe - or the knife, or perhaps the pistol - they're not saying. And after a successful preview showing, it seems there are still a few sanguinary surprises to be wrung from the comic-macabre Deathtrap, opening this weekend at the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse.There were a lot of gasps, and people saying, 'oh-ho...' says director Debra Bedient, of first-night audience reaction to the play's grisly twists. I like that. Written in 1978 by Ira Levin, Deathtrap earned distinction as the longest-running thriller in Broadway history. It was was subsequently made into a successful feature film, with Christopher Reeves, Michael Caine and Dyan Cannon.But unlike the film, which meandered through a variety of locations and used odd camera work to suggest tension, the two-act stage production takes place in but a single location - the study of frustrated playwright Sidney Bruhl in Westport, Conn.Tackling the twisted impulses of Bruhl - who loses his creative edge and contemplates the murder of a student who's crafted a better play than his own - is Steven Fogell.Sidney is not a nice person, says Fogell, BPA education director and a veteran of local productions including Annie and Born Yesterday.I've always liked playing villain-type characters, he says. From the acting point of view, they're more interesting.Apropos of the character's sinister bent, his study has the air of death about it even before the mayhem begins.Arrayed about the room's walls is a veritable arsenal of old weaponry, everything from flintlock pistols to crossed swords to a medieval mace. A skull greets visitors at the door.Production designer Mark Sell says the single set afforded more opportunity for knick-knackery and detail. And with a well-stocked liquor bar at stage left to complement the weaponry, it shows. Wooden beams lean in over the set, suggesting Connecticut's colonial architecture and the room's conversion from stable to den.Thursday afternoon, Sell and stage manager Sophia Miller were diligently adding the finishing touches - waxing the floor to lend a nice satin sheen, and making it easier to clean up the blood between performances.It's a must-see, I think, Sell says. It's a set that really draws you in.One set piece will be particularly well-rehearsed: a desk that appears in the second act has been used in two previous productions of Deathtrap elsewhere in Kitsap County. Its very presence, Bedient believes, will contribute an aura to the production.I hope we're not boring it, she deadpans.Hailing from Bremerton, Bedient has been involved in Kitsap-area theater for two decades. She directed BPA's Lend Me A Tenor in 1998.Rounding out the cast are three stage vets and a newcomer. Carrie DeFoe is Myra Bruhl, Sidney's wife; Sharon Greany appears as the character Helga Ten Dorp; Bill Walters plays Clifford Anderson; and islander and long-time BPA volunteer David Rapp makes his stage debut as Port Milgrim.The fast-paced script makes much sport of the theater itself, with inside jokes that should appeal to thespians.A word of caution: the play is mature themed, no worse than a PG-13 film, but not necessarily appropriate for youngsters.It's very twisted, very funny, but also contains all the elements of a thriller, Fogell says. It's one of those 'you don't know how it ends until it ends' types of plays.Adds Bedient: You've heard the adage - 'dying is easy - comedy is hard.'Deathtrap takes a stab at both.* * * * *The Bainbridge Performing Arts production of Ira Levin's Deathtrap runs weekends through Nov. 4. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. for Friday and Saturday shows, and 3 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Tickets are available at the box office, or by calling 842-8569. "