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Deathtrap mines the funny side of murder

Mayfield mounts classic Ira Levin script

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am

PERFORMER-DIRECTOR – John Kirkpatrick is the director of Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s production of Deathtrap, which he describes as a “fantastic comedy thriller.” He’ll also be acting in two plays during the Stratford Festival’s upcoming season.
PERFORMER-DIRECTOR – John Kirkpatrick is the director of Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s production of Deathtrap, which he describes as a “fantastic comedy thriller.” He’ll also be acting in two plays during the Stratford Festival’s upcoming season.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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Preview

Deathtrap
Runs until April 6
Mayfield Dinner Theatre
16615 - 109 Ave
Tickets: $65 to $90. Call 780-483-4051 or go online to mayfieldtheatre.ca

Two days after director John Kirkpatrick enjoyed the opening of Deathtrap at Mayfield Dinner Theatre, he flew directly to Stratford, Ont.

One of the St. Albert Children’s Theatre’s shining lights, the former resident is slated to perform at the Stratford Festival, an internationally-recognized theatre festival that runs from April to October.

The lean actor is on contract to perform in two productions: as French philosopher Rene Descartes in Christina, the Girl King and as of yet, an unnamed role in Alice Through the Looking-Glass.

“I’m very excited. This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Kirkpatrick during a quick telephone interview from Stratford.

Although the Stratford Festival has the international lustre to put artists on track for bigger things, Kirkpatrick is deeply rooted in the Capital region and is committed to promoting the arts.

An award-winning actor and former artistic director of Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Kirkpatrick returned to the Mayfield to direct several very successful productions – 9-5 The Musical, Boeing Boeing and The 39 Steps.

Deathtrap is a masterfully written mystery thriller right up Kirkpatrick’s alley. Playwright Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby) delivers a look at the fickleness of Broadway fame.

Sidney Bruhl (John Ullyatt), once the toast of Broadway, is a down-on-his-luck writer of mystery plays.

Enduring a series of flops, Sidney is delivered a ticket out of his funk. An unknown writer, Clifford Anderson (Mathew Hulshof) asks Sidney’s opinion on his unpublished manuscript.

Sidney immediately recognizes the brilliance in the suspense drama and tells Clifford he would like to collaborate on the play. Instead the veteran writer plans to murder Clifford and pass the play off as his own. However, Clifford has a few bombshells of his own.

“It’s a fantastic comedy thriller. There are constant twists and turns and you don’t see the next surprise coming,” Kirkpatrick said.

There is a style of writing such as Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap that is larded with red herrings.

“This is better crafted than that. There’s always something that goes a certain direction, but you are not anticipating the abrupt turn it makes.”

For instance, Clifford realizes the chase is afoot and he’s the prey. So why does Clifford stay?

“He wants to stay. He wants to pull off a bigger heist,” laughed Kirkpatrick. “They’re brilliant, but when you think about it, they are awful people.”

Behind the scenes, Deathtrap was an opportunity for Kirkpatrick to reunite with longtime friend John Ullyatt.

They met at the University of Alberta’s theatre program and for several decades have shared the spotlight at several Edmonton theatre companies.

In Deathtrap, Ullyatt’s character Sidney obsesses about fame, fortune, money and prestige.

“He’s (Sidney) so full of himself. His ego is completely in the way. Ironically, he thinks he has the upper hand and never does. John is one of the few actors that can play Sidney and still be charming.”

In the same vein as Sleuth and Dial M For Murder, Deathtrap is a chain of events that leaves the audience wondering where fantasy ends and reality begins.

“I think Ira Levin was having fun. He was trying to write a thriller with the most twists and turns and it’s become one of the most successful of its genre. This is a good adventure. You don’t want to miss it.”


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