When I first read the script for Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap”, I’ll admit…I was a bit underwhelmed with the character of Myra Bruhl, the wife of the once successful, but now struggling, playwright Sidney Bruhl. She appears a dutiful wife, maybe even a bit boring, supporting her writer husband through their financial struggles, and has a weak heart. Literally.
But then I read the play again and stopped at an observation made by another character in the second act, who says “She must have been keeping a few secrets.” Ah, here we go. This is where things get deeper and more interesting. Myra is much more complicated than she initially appears. This Myra does indeed have a few secrets.
Once we started rehearsals one of the first things director Scott Palmer asked me was “What does Myra have going on? What is underneath all of this fluff?” In the script it is noted in the stage directions that she is often seen knitting. Nope. Our Myra is not a knitter. Our Myra is using that time to organize finances, or note reminders about things that need to be taken care of, etc. She is strong, independent, and fiercely focused. This woman uses her time to strategize. She is the one in the household “whose feet are on the ground, and whose eye is on the checkbook.” She keeps everything “apple pie order.” She is in control.
Myra desires more from life than being a supportive housewife. She wants to work, she wants to travel, she wants to surround herself with intelligent, creative, successful, and interesting people. When she first met Sidney, this is the life they had together. Sidney Bruhl, author of the hit play “The Murder Game.” They dined at the right places, were friends with the right people. They were successful and living the life Myra had always wanted. It was exciting. Now that her husband has gotten panned by critics and not written a successful play in years, she is forced to use her own finances to support their lifestyle. This is not the life she signed up for. She longs for something more.