Micki Voelkel has one request of patrons who see the Fort Smith Little Theatre production of "Deathtrap": Tell your friends -- but don't tell them much!
"When the audience leaves I want them to say, 'What a thrill ride!' I also want them to say, 'Shhh!' so that they avoid spoiling the twists and turns for other audiences," the veteran director says. "No spoilers, please!"
Written in 1978 by Ira Levin and adapted into a 1982 movie starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon, "Deathtrap" is the story of a "one-hit wonder" playwright named Sidney Bruhl. He hasn't had a success since -- but his high-strung wife Myra isn't worried (not about that, at least). After all, she's got plenty of money for both of them.
Then Sidney gets a play in the mail, written by a student who sat in on one of his workshops. It's brilliant, destined to be a huge hit. Can he find some way to use it to his benefit -- or maybe take it as his own?
Add to the mix Helga Ten Dorp, a Dutch psychic who happens to be visiting next door, and the result is a thriller "filled with dark humor and mental whiplash turns," says veteran actor Duff Taylor, who portrays Sidney Bruhl.
"I'm very excited to play someone who has so many levels of characterization," he says. "Sidney appears to be self-confident, humorous, loving and creative. Yet beneath this thin veneer lurks another person whose secrets consume him. "I've never had so much fun with a character as I am having with this playwright in the midst of a dry spell."
Charles Belt returns to the FSLT stage as Clifford Anderson, Bruhl's student.
"My first play ['The Graduate'] was in 2019 and was also directed by Micki," he says. "She makes what should be a stressful process of bringing a play to the stage such a smooth and enjoyable thing to be a part of! If Micki is directing, there's a very good chance I'll be auditioning!"
Belt says he and Clifford have both "dreamed of breaking out of our towns and becoming big stars," but unlike him, his character "hasn't settled down yet, met his spouse, or found peace in his work or at his local community theater."
Both Taylor and Belt say the challenge of the play is "line load! Lots of dialogue," as Taylor puts it. But that's also the reward. "It's a great role with depth of character."
"Only five characters and a lot of lines, but the reward is getting to do something I love with a really talented cast, an amazing crew, and one of my favorite directors," Belt adds. "Plus, my wife is the stage manager, and I like her quite a bit too."
In the role of Helga Ten Dorp, Rikkee Black is providing some comic relief and enjoying new challenges. "She is so fun and outside of any character I've ever done," she says. "She is pushing my comfort level and helping me grow as an individual and as an actress."
And Tina Dale, playing Myra, says she's happy to be back on stage at FSLT as part of this suspenseful production.
"In every scene, I feel like there is so much happening just beneath the surface, going unsaid but portrayed just the same. I'm sure our patrons will really enjoy the ride."
Voelkel, who was supposed to direct "Deathtrap" in the covid-canceled 2020 season, says it's been worth the wait.
"Three years late, but just as exciting," she says. "I had the opportunity to see 'Deathtrap' on Broadway in 1978 when I was 15. There was a moment so shocking that I screamed aloud and grabbed the elderly gentleman -- a complete stranger -- next to me! I've loved 'Deathtrap' ever since!"
Taylor tells audiences to "get ready for some shocks and laughs!" And when the show is over, expect to be saying: "Holy cow, I didn't see that coming. I've got mental whiplash from the twists and turns!"
WHEN -- 7:30 p.m. June 2-3; 2 p.m. June 4; again June 7-10
WHERE -- Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St.
COST -- $20 opening night, $12 all other performances
INFO -- fslt.org or 783-2966
WHEN — 7:30 p.m. June 2-3; 2 p.m. June 4; again June 7-10
WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre
COST — $20 opening night, $12 all other performances
INFO — fslt.org or 783-2966, ext. 2