Form and Content
Deathtrap’s importance stems from its success as an example of the playwright’s craft of plot construction and gamesmanship. Ira Levin has succeeded in the challenge to create a new variation in a genre where all possible variations seemed to have been discovered and to discuss within the context of the play exactly what those elements are.
Act 1 begins with playwright Sidney Bruhl devastated. He is reading the manuscript for Deathtrap, the most commercial thriller that he has read in over a decade, and it is not his play. His wife, Myra, who has been supporting him since his last success almost twenty years ago, suggests that he collaborate with the student writer, polishing Deathtrap for a Broadway production. Sidney unnerves Myra by plotting to invite the student to their house, kill him, and steal Deathtrap for himself. When Myra reminds Sidney that the famous crime-solving psychic Helga ten Dorp is vacationing nearby, he dismisses this threat as an example of his ability to recognize the dramatic possibilities for murder.
Clifford Anderson arrives in scene 2, anxious to review his manuscript with “The Master.” Clifford admires Sidney’s collection of exotic weapons while Sidney asks leading questions, suggesting that he is trying to arrange a murder. Just as Myra believes that Clifford is safe, Sidney attacks, garrotting him to death. Myra looks on, horrified, while Sidney wraps the body in a rug and babbles on about how wonderful it will be to have another hit play.
As scene 3 begins, Sidney...
(The entire section is 645 words.)