It is believed that the best chess players can envision themselves dozens of moves ahead, analyzing a plethora of scenarios and outcomes, all whilst staying ever so present in the moment in an aura of crystal clear composure. It becomes a mental decathlon, how many moves ahead can you be? Can you throw out a counter before your opponent does? Can you make your opponent believe… that they are not your opponent? Ira Levin is thousands of moves ahead of us. Manipulation, secrets, deceit, it’s all there for the taking. Deathtrap is a piggy bank of manipulation tactics and it’s indeed a treat for any actor.
Manipulation is all around us. The characters in Deathtrap basically use this as a survival technique. Instead of portraying manipulation as some sort of evil entity, Deathtrap helps us humanize it. What do you want? Who do you want it from? How do you have to make them feel in order to get it? How far are you willing to go? What happens to you if you don’t get what you want/need?
Everything we do as actors is grounded heavily in objective based motivation. Your motivation is what you want, and what you want and/or need is the single most important component of your core, and that energy should in turn, drive you.
How do we as artists strengthen those objectives? How do we turn to be wanted into to be loved, how do we turn to be loved into needed?
Deathtrap looks you right in the eye and shoves you in the center of the chest. It jolts you into an unbalanced trip up before you can even set your feet. It is a brilliant example of forcing characters into manipulation. It’s the how to guide to strengthening ones objective. Deathtrap let’s it’s characters be truly selfish. The play uses manipulation to ratchet the stakes up all while maintaining an elegant front. Is the play manipulative towards the characters, or the contrary? … both?
Everything is a tactic. Everything is a move, yet there is so much elegance within the manipulation. It sure is beautiful. We thank you Ira, for your challenge.
Time to get to work.