Folks can catch a good play while helping a good cause as the Surry County Senior Center presents a three-day run of a play as a fundraiser.
NoneSuch Playmakers aren’t seen as often in Mount Airy as they once were — the troupe does a lot of touring these days — but they are returning to the Granite City July 13-15 for three shows of Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap” at the L.H. Jones Auditorium in partnership with the Surry County Senior Center.
“We’ve been partnering with the Senior Center for a good number of years,” said Brack Llewellyn, co-founder of Nonesuch. “It goes back to before I started working there, 2008 or 2009. We were looking for a place to perform locally, and they have that great auditorium. It was still under construction then. They assist us with publicity and rehearsal space. It has worked out really well.”
“This is a fundraiser for us. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Senior Center,” said Jane Surratt, Senior Center director. “It’s a really good way for people to become aware of the Senior Center and see what we do. We like to have the community included, and what better way than to have the community come to see a play put on by a local theater company?”
This summer’s play, “Deathtrap,” a thriller in two acts, is by playwright and author Ira Levin, known for such novels as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives,” “A Kiss Before Dying” and “The Boys from Brazil.”
As one might guess from the author’s reputation, it’s a little different from your standard thriller.
“Deathtrap is much more than a ‘whodunit,’” said Llewellyn, who directed the play. “It’s also a ‘who’s-going-to-do-it’ and a ‘why-they-did-it.’ This script has more twists and turns than a mountain road. Every page is designed to keep the audience guessing.”
Llewellyn describes the opening scene. “Famous playwright Sidney Bruhl (played by Garry Wadell) has just received a script from a young aspiring writer named Clifford Anderson (Joey Marion). Bruhl is in a professional slump and Clifford’s script, a nearly perfect thriller entitled “Deathtrap,” soon has the aging playwright plotting the young man’s murder. Bruhl schemes to steal the play and sell it as his own after burying Clifford in the garden behind Bruhl’s house. Bruhl’s wife Myra (Leslie Watts) is horrified by her husband’s nefarious plan, but her ailing heart prevents her from acting strongly against him.”
“And that’s just Scene One,” Llewellyn said. “We really can’t reveal much more of the plot without spoiling the fun. Suffice it to say that Sidney Bruhl’s plan is only the beginning of the surprises. Along the way we meet celebrity psychic Helga Ten Dorp (Angela Llewellyn), who’s picking up all kinds of ominous vibrations from the Bruhl house, plus Sidney’s lawyer, Porter Milgrim (Brian Patterson), who has secrets of his own.”
The plot twists in “Deathtrap” come quickly. Every line and every movement could be a clue to the next “aha” moment.
“You can’t turn away for a second,” Llewellyn noted. “This is real edge-of-your-seat stuff.”
“Deathtrap” is the polar opposite of Nonesuch’s summer 2017 play, “Hicksville,” a light-hearted comedy written and directed by Llewellyn.
“It’s not been easy,” said Llewellyn. “If your standard Agatha Christie, one-scene thriller is driving in a small village, “Deathtrap” is driving in Atlanta.”
“It has been both exciting and challenging. They love this,” he said of his cast. “The challenge has been to deliver each line consistently and accurately, but not overplaying it. There’s subtlety built into it. We’ve been working on hitting the beats inside of the scenes.”
Llewellyn says he couldn’t have better people to work with. “Joey Marion is a director himself, and Garry is a force of nature,” he said of his stars.
Llewellyn said directing someone else’s work is different from directing one’s own play, as he did last summer with “Hicksville.”
“You want to stay true to their vision. At the same time, you have to put your own interpretation on it. That requires research. I read some of his (Ira Levin’s) books to know where his head is.”
According to Llewellyn, “Deathtrap” was considered by critics and audiences to be an homage to playwrights, but he said it’s also an indictment of playwrights. You see the dark underbelly of that world. And it gets really dark.”
In addressing how many years Nonesuch Playmakers has been around, Llewellyn laughingly said, “I think a thousand,” before amending his answer to since September 2001. The company started with him, his wife Angela Llewellyn, Heather Elliot and a couple of friends. “It was a grand total of five,” he said.
“We’re up to 60 now,” he added. “Some of them can go two or three years without doing a show. Some are kind of honorary. One lives in England now. He’s not likely to do a show with us soon.”
“We still do some shows here, but we’ve mostly become a touring company,” said Llewellyn. “That’s why people don’t see as much of us as they once did.”
Llewellyn said the company regularly performs at Stokes Arts Council, Chateau Morrisette Winery, Old Mill Resort, Childress Vineyard, and all over Northwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.
“Deathtrap” is produced in partnership with the YVEDDI Senior Center of Surry County, and a portion of the proceeds will go to support the Senior Center’s programs.
The play contains some adult themes and mild language and is not recommended for children under the age of 13.
Performances of The NoneSuch Playmakers’ production of “Deathtrap” are Friday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 15 at 2 p.m., all in the L.H. Jones Auditorium at 215 Jones School Road in Mount Airy. Admission is $10 per person, and tickets will be available at the door.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.