Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Oct. 26

Ira Levin’s evergreen stage thriller Deathtrap is about, well, coming up with the perfect stage thriller. It’s perhaps one of the most self-referential hits of all time, with every last character pointing out the possible turns of the plot and how they’re in a thriller-like situation. Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of the 30-year-old hit can’t help but feel a bit dated, but it still holds a fair amount of the show’s intended shocks and laughs.

Jim Aldridge plays blocked playwright Sidney Bruhl, who’s commiserating over his latest flop with his wife, Myra (Debra Zumbach Grannan), at their Connecticut home. A student has just sent him a surefire smash called Deathtrap, and wouldn’t you know, he only has one copy. As the student, Clifford (Tony Feole), shows up, Myra attempts to talk Sidney out of stealing the play for himself, leading to a dozen or so plot twists that don’t deserve to be spoiled.

Anton Chekov famously dictated that if there is a gun hung over the fireplace in the first act, it must be fired by the third. In Deathtrap, the walls are lined with dozens of weapons, and the fun is figuring out which will be used and to what ends. The play’s 1978 origins show on occasion; there’s a running bit about a psychic (Jenny Anglum) that feels like a period touch, and some of the self-referential jokes feel self-congratulatory. There’s also a number of theater references that some audience members won’t get. But Deathtrap still has the power to make audience members laugh—and occasionally jump out of their seats. —Zack Smith