Writer’s block can be murder.
In the Prince George’s Little Theatre production of Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap,” mystery writer Sidney Bruhl, played by Michael N. Dunlop, is frustrated by his latest work when he encounters an up-and-coming writer by the name of Clifford Anderson who has a hot new script.
Bruhl has plans for his script, and Anderson, says Dunlop.
“Sidney, he’s a very precise and devious man, and he plots everything out to the letter including everybody’s lies,” Dunlop says. “It’s a beautifully scripted thing.”
The play, opening Friday and running to May 12 at the Bowie Playhouse, is directed by Gayle Negri.
After a long break from the director’s chair, Negri only recently began directing locally. Her first show since her break in 1995 was 2008’s “Steel Magnolias” with PGLT.
Negri hoped to lead “Deathtrap” because of its sharp writing.
“This was just an amazing read and I found it fascinating that every time I read it, I discovered something else,” she says.
Kristofer Northrup, who portrays Clifford, says the show has enjoyed a long success, including a 1982 movie featuring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.
“One of the reasons it had a lot of critical success was that it combines a lot of things,” Northrup says. “There are the thriller aspects that have all the twists and turns, but at the same time, it’s an extremely funny play.”
Northrup’s first introduction to the piece was when his mother took him to see it as a child. Northrup says his mother was not aware of the film’s more outlandishly wicked moments.
“My mother was having a fit, but that was actually one of my funnier childhood memories,” he says.
For Northrup, Clifford is a character with a rather wicked side to his unsuspecting personality.
“He’s this sort of naive young playwright and a very ‘Golly, gee-whiz’ kind of guy,” Northrup says. “But at the same time, he’s actually fallen in with one of his idols and fallen in with the idea of committing violence in that same kind of golly-gee kind of way.”
The play is not only about a murder writer, but writers in general. Northrup says Levin was self-referential when penning the piece in the late 1970s. He even went so far as to buy a blue Mercedes, which is a plot point in “Deathtrap.” In the end, the drive for success can come at a high cost.
“Ira, I think, is basically saying this industry and I think not just on stage, but just saying in general there are a lot of people who get into furthering their ends at any cost, and there are people who lose their humanity for their idea of being a successful Broadway playwright,” Northrup says.