Deathtrap: A charade in the weird and unhinged

Courtesy of Duquesne Red Masquers | Aubrey Posluszny played Helga ten Dorp who warned Sidney of the impending gruesome events throughout the show.

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The Red Masquers kick off the spooky season on the Bluff featuring the 1978 murder mystery “Deathtrap” by playwright Ira Levin. This engaging two-hour production has been active for the past two weeks with each show containing an array of unexpected jarring twists and turns.

The show’s plot follows a formerly successful playwright, Sidney Burhl, as his desperate desire to write a big hit consumes him.

His obsession and financial struggle lead him to the idea of stealing student Clifford Anderson’s script and committing cold-blooded murder to cover it up. The playwright lures the young student to his house and discovers that there are no other copies of Clifford’s script in existence. Sidney jumps on this opportunity, appearing to kill Clifford.

However, things do not go according to plan and a visit from a psychic reveals Sidney may be in danger himself.

Knowing the production would be running in October, cast members chose to perform “Deathtrap,” because the plot has a mix of both chilling rhetoric and witty dialogue. The combination kept viewers on the edge of their seats.

“There is definitely a spooky aspect to this play. We had a plan as an organization that we wanted this production to fit the theme of Halloween. However, we also wanted there to be a humorous component as well” said Ryan Graves who played the part of Clifford Anderson, the young student who naively trusts Sidney.

“Sidney is a middle-aged playwright who was once successful but has been struggling recently. He is simply desperate. This forces the character to do multiple things during the play that shock the audience and keep them engaged,” said Ethan Nafus, the actor portraying Sidney.

One of the unique features of the show is the references of itself as a play within a play with Clifford’s script in the play also being titled “Deathtrap.” Levin’s original production contains only two acts all performed within one set.

“Deathtrap” currently holds the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway.

The cast and crew spent the last six weeks preparing. Despite having only five total actors on stage they reaped the fruit of their labor last Thursday as more than 40 individuals attended their production.

The play itself featured multiple jump scares and props. They both contributed to the spooky nature of the production and allowed for the unexpected nature of the plot to flourish.

Stage manager Rachel Potts said that the props used in the show are heavily regulated to ensure no cast members are accidentally hurt.

​“This play is especially unique because of the darker tones and unique props in the show. It forces the actors to come out of their comfort zone and portray themes they never have portrayed before,” Potts said.

The audience ate up the multiple cliffhangers and plot twists, and the show closed with a near standing ovation at the end.

For productions beyond “Deathtrap,” that require more than five actors, Graves said The Red Masquers are always looking to have new talent. He encourages people to try their hand at acting.

“To be involved, you just need to push past the nervousness of theater. There are many opportunities to get involved like stage managing and writing. Plus, we want our productions to not only entertain individuals but also inspire some to share in our enjoyment of theater,” he said.

Students who enjoy The Red Masquer’s productions and want to become more involved in acting are encouraged to reach out to the club through CampusLink.

For individuals who have not yet seen the production and are looking for a chilling and frightening night of theater, the Red Masquers will continue running the play throughout the month of October through the first week of November. The club’s last showing will be on Nov. 5. Duquesne students are welcomed to attend the midnight showing for free on Halloween.

The Red Masquers’ next holiday play, the 1940s “A Christmas Carol” will open on Dec. 6 and run until Dec. 9.