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Suspense is in the air as CCRI Players tackle comedic thriller Deathtrap

erinhaasDecember 7, 2022 

The Community College of Rhode Island’s student-run theatre group, the CCRI Players, closes out its fall season beginning tomorrow with an adaptation of Deathtrap, a classic comedic thriller by Ira Levin in which a struggling playwright wrestles with his moral compass when presented with a life-changing opportunity.

Deathtrap premieres tomorrow night at 7:30 at CCRI’s Liston Campus Theater in Providence and continues Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2 and 7:30, and Sunday at 2. Tickets are available online or at the box office. (See photo gallery for more.)

Directed by Erin Haas, Deathtrap is the story of washed-up playwright Sidney Bruhl, who hasn’t written a hit play in nearly two decades and is suddenly offered a can’t-miss script by former student Clifford Anderson. Bruhl’s wife Myra suggests the two collaborate on the production while Bruhl jokes that it’d be easier to just kill his former student and steal the play for himself. Deathtrap subsequently unfolds as a suspenseful “will he or won’t he” mystery with unpredictable twists and turns that explores who really has ulterior motives.

“I’m a big fan of Ira Levin and I really liked the play as soon as I read it,” Haas said. “I thought it would translate well to CCRI. It’s a small cast, but it’s a challenge, too, because it’s such an interesting play and has a lot of technical aspects to it that I thought would be good for our students to tackle.”

Set in the 1970s, Deathtrap is an elaborate production in that it contains elements of violence, special effects, and intricate lighting that presented unique challenges for the cast and crew. After watching other adaptions of Deathtrap – including the 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon – Haas brought in Dean College Technical Director and Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Jim Beauregard to choreograph the fight scenes.

The next challenge was adjusting to a new lead more than halfway through rehearsals when the actor playing Sidney Bruhl was forced to withdraw from the play. In stepped CCRI alumnus David Valentin, who recently directed the Players’ Summer Rep production of Othello. Valentin will be “on book” during parts of his performance, which means he didn’t have the chance to memorize all of his lines on a week’s notice, but Haas is excited for the opportunity to collaborate with Valentin, an accomplished actor and director and Class of 2017 alumnus who also directed CCRI Theater Director Ted Clement’s debut play, The Choice.

“It’s great to give our student actors the experience of working with David, who has also worked outside of CCRI and done other things,” Haas said. “It was pretty challenging, but what’s important to me is that the story is told well. That’s all that matters. If he’s comfortable and the story is told well, we’re in good shape.”

The remaining cast for Deathtrap includes Shelby Cray of Bristol, RI, as Myra Bruhl; Cole Stanley of North Providence, RI; as Clifford Anderson; Elissa Parente of Cranston, RI, as Helga ten Dorp; and Ilyus Evander of Providence, RI, as Porter Milgrim.

“It’s a tight-knit group, which is a good thing,” Haas continued. “I wanted that, too, because while big productions are great, smaller productions have a special place because you get to bond easily and get to know everyone better. It’s important to me to form a cohesive unit amongst the cast.”

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