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Renegade presents a tale of violence and absurdity

Renegade presents a tale of violence and absurdity

By Sarah Lehr

Four first years were murdered in Weaver Cottage on Saturday, Feb. 16 before an audience of 25. Renegades Deathtrap lived up to its name. Ethan Raduns-Silverstein ’16 directed the play, which also ran on Friday, Feb. 15.
The set itself was a nod to the plays genre. Posters from thrillers adorned the room where all the scenes took place the living room of playwright Sidney Bruhl (Sam Whipple ’16). The Bruhls old Connecticut home offered a classic horror story setting. Somehow, though, the coziness of Weaver and the bright lighting made the Bruhl residence seem a little too homey and a little less sinister.
Fortunately, however, Whipple brought a dose of ominousness to the play through his portrayal of the brusque and overly-ambitious Sidney. In a moment of delicious arrogance, Sidney says to his former student Clifford Anderson (Noah Weinman’16), I’m sorry if I awe you. Whipple’s portrayal made it abundantly clear that Sidney will stop at nothing to feed his own reputation as a playwright. Sidney’s wife, Myra (a dynamic Sarah White ’16), concluded that Sidney plans to murder his pupil so that he can steal Clifford’s play and publish it as its own. Thanks to the comedic sensitivity of White, in particular, the interplay between Sidney and Myra proved to be one of the most entertaining elements of the play. Like most married couples, the Bruhls have spats, only theirs involve what to do with a dead body.
The plays beginning dragged a bit. The title made it clear that a murder will happen, and as Sidney, Myra and Clifford exchanged admittedly clever dialogue in the Bruhl living room, the audience wished that the murder would just happen already. Finally, at the end of the second scene, Sidney strangled Clifford with his tie. As he gasped for breath, Clifford jerked about in an exaggerated, theatrical way and successfully kept the eyes of the audience glued to the action.
Soon after Sidney told his wife that he has disposed of Clifford’s body in their vegetable patch, the Bruhls’ neighbor, Helga ten Dorp (Caroline Fenn ’16), showed up uninvited at the Bruhl residence. Fenn’s intentionally ridiculous portrayal of Helga, a psychic, injected a much-needed dose of verve into the play. Fenn sported an accent from an indeterminate Eastern European country and would frequently freeze to gaze off into the distance and deliver prophecies. This over-the-top type of comedy provided a nice contrast to Sidney’s dry humor after murdering someone, he remarked, “No blood on the carpet. 10 points for neatness. “
Sidney may be a tidy killer, but the plays plot got a lot messier as it entered its second half. Clifford’s murder at the hands of Sidney felt inevitable. But, moments before intermission, another, more shocking murder entered the picture. Members of the audience laughed, swore and gasped audibly when Clifford staggered into the living room and attacked Sidney. Myra suffered a heart attack at the sight of the supposedly dead Clifford attacking her husband. As it turned out, Clifford and Sidney were in cahoots the whole time. Now, Clifford and Sidney could work together free from Myra and get rich off of their plays. Apparently, Sidney and Clifford are lovers, but Whipple and Weinman offered little sense of the pair as anything beyond coworkers and housemates. When Whipple called Clifford dear or when Weinman said Ill buy that after Whipple asked him to go to bed, it felt cold and matter-of-fact rather than flirtatious.
On the other hand, Weinman sensitively captured the tension between Clifford’s feigned innocence and his scheming nature. Clifford betrays Sidney and, as the two struggle, they end up murdering each other. Raduns-Silversteins’ decision to emphasize the comedic absurdity of this double-homicide rather than its horror proved successful: the audience tittered at Sidney’s weapon of choice, a medieval crossbow. In the final scene, Helga met with lawyer Porter Milgrim (effectively played by Joseph Randles ’16) and ended up killing him in self-defense. The bodies pile up, and it becomes clear that Deathtrap is not a realistic play. But, that’s not the point.

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