MCT stunningly opens murder-mystery season

By JULIE MCHALE - Post Theater Critic

August 17, 2017


Bill Watson as Sidney Bruhl, left, and Di’Monte Henning as Clifford Anderson in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of “Deathtrap.”
Paul Ruffolo

MILWAUKEE - Most people love a good murder mystery.  Certain ones stand out as classics. Who can forget “Sleuth” or “Dial M for Murder” or “Wait Until Dark”? Agatha Christie alone has written many masterpieces.

In them we see the limits to which some will go to gain revenge or profit or even notoriety, and we are intrigued at their ingenuity and also admire the persistence of those who work to uncover the crimes.

“Deathtrap,” the season opener at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre for its chosen theme for 2017-18, The Mysteries of Life, certainly provides a stunning beginning. Its breathtaking set design and array of props (Arnel Sancianco and Nikki Kulas) and its realistic sound and lighting designs (Grover Hollway and Alexander Ridgers) all contribute to the final result - a fascinating mix of horror and humor.

Sidney Bruhl, a once-very-successful playwright suffering from writer’s block and afraid of being finished as a celebrated author, one day receives in the mail the rough draft of a mystery play from a hopeful new young author who is looking to Bruhl for his honed opinion of his work in progress. Bruhl recognizes this as a masterful piece of writing. He also remembers the author as a former student of his who participated in one of his seminars.

He also can readily see that this young man has an incipient success on his hands. Encouraged by his young wife, Bruhl begins to fashion a way to cash in on Clifford Anderson’s upcoming “hit.” He even contemplates murdering him in order to assume ownership of the property. Greed and desperation have definitely emerged as powerful forces in both husband and wife.

From there on, anything could happen, and, in fact almost everything does. The five actors all do their part to keep us engaged. Bill Watson as Bruhl blusters about beautifully while his anxious wife, Myra (Susan Spencer), tries to proceed with conniving calm. Di’Monte Henning exudes confidence and cleverness throughout as the ambitious young author, while the psychic next door, boldly played by Mary Kababik, provides a bizarre and creepy contrast to the other four characters. David Sapiro as the duddy lawyer Porter Milgram offers a couple surprises of his own. All the characters are engrossing in their own way.

Christopher Elst, a talented fight choreographer, fulfilled his role with his usual skill. His pupils learned well, and director Michael Cotey worked his magic with the cast of talented dramatic and technical artists.

I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this masterpiece. The audience I was a part of on Sunday afternoon jumped up with energetic appreciation as soon as the curtain closed. Their response said it all.

I won’t give away any of the twists in the plot, but I encourage you all to experience them yourselves. I promise you that you’ll be glad you didn’t miss this one.



The murder mystery runs through Aug. 27 at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee. Call 414-291-7800 or visit for times and tickets.