Death Warmed Over

The Lake Worth Playhouse can't breathe new life into Deathtrap

This lack of depth and charisma permeates the show, turning the characters into a collection of cardboard cutouts. Love-hate relationships succumb to a cashier­bag boy style of interaction. The emotions pass through the conveyor belt and over the scanner from one actor to another; rage, passion, vengeance, and remorse are packed neatly and carted away. The romantic relationships are especially unconvincing because they lack real passion. If we are to assume that people are being killed so that others can unite, we expect more than a few gratuitous hugs and kisses.

Doris Biles as Helga ten Dorp, the nosy psychic neighbor, is a breath of fresh air in this respect. Biles is an emotive actress, moving around with her feelers out. As she asks, "Why do you keep such pain-covered things?" she actually interacts with Sidney and Myra (and the set, for that matter), giving the stage a much-needed intimacy.

Perhaps you can't judge a Beckett play by measuring the audience's audible reaction, but the shouts and shrieks at a show like Deathtrap should be some indication of its success. In this production punch lines are delivered... and no one laughs. Gunshots are fired... and no one screams. Ulterior motives are divulged... and no one gasps. The volunteer ushers, tanned retirees in smart red polo shirts, gather to debrief at intermission. "Why did so-and-so kill what's-his-name? He's what? Oh, OK, I see, but I still don't trust that other one." Hearing them speculate feels more real and interesting than the play itself -- a bad sign when you have 40 minutes and several tedious homicides to go.

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