10 Plays You'll Die For — Looking at Thrillers from Pillowman to Perfect Crime

News   10 Plays You'll Die For — Looking at Thrillers from Pillowman to Perfect Crime Thrillers — usually involving murder or the threat of murder — used to be a staple of Broadway. Some of the longest-running non-musicals in Broadway history were thrillers, like Deathtrap and Sleuth. Just in time for Halloween, take a look at ten classics of the horror genre that delighted and excited audiences. 

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie (1952). This Christie classic is the longest-running play in West End history — and, indeed, in world history. A group of guests stranded by a blizzard in a country inn are being killed off one by one. The ever-dwindling survivors struggle to figure out which among them is the murderer before it is too late for them all. Watch the trailer for the West End production of The Mousetrap, made in honor of the show's 60th anniversary in 2012.

 

Perfect Crime by Warren Manzi (1987). It’s been running Off-Broadway for 28 years with one original cast member — the indefatigable Catherine Russell — still playing the leading lady, a psychiatrist who may or may not be responsible for her husband’s murder. The detective assigned to crack the case encounters a stumbling block — he’s starting to fall in love with the suspect! Watch a video of Perfect Crime below. 

Deathtrap by Ira Levin (1978). This one is set in the world of Broadway. Former golden boy playwright Sidney Bruhl has hit the skids with nothing but flops. When a former student brings him a script to read — a surefire hit — Bruhl concocts a plan to lure the young acolyte to his country home, murder him and take credit for the play himself. But things don’t go precisely as planned. Watch the trailer for "Deathtrap." 

Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott (1966). Three sneak-thieves decide to torture and rob a blind woman in her home, but she turns the tables on them when she kills the lights and they find themselves trapped in her world. With her acutely heightened senses of hearing and touch, the quarry becomes the hunter. Audrey Hepburn starred in the film adaptation. 

Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams (1936). Olivia Grayne served as a live-in attendant to her crotchety elderly aunt — until the aunt replaces her with an extraordinarily pleasant young man named Danny. But Olivia suspects that Danny isn’t what he seems, believing him to be a mentally disturbed killer who has plans to rob and murder the aunt. The aunt refuses to believe her, even as the evidence begins to mount, and Olivia decides that she will have to confront Danny herself. Watch the trailer.

Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott (1952). Tony Wendice concocts a complicated plot to murder his rich wife and keep all her money for himself. But the murder plan goes off the rails and Tony has to scramble ever more desperately to divert suspicion — especially when he discovers his wife has been cheating on him. Grace Kelly starred in the film adaptation.  

Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer (1970). Middle-aged mystery writer Andrew Wyke entertains a young fan who, as he discovers, has been having an affair with his wife. Revenge is sweet. But who are Inspector Doppler, Det. Sergeant Tarrant and Police Constable Higgs? Watch the trailer for the 1972 film version of Sleuth, with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.

Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie (1954). When Leonard Vole is arrested for the murder of a wealthy older woman, his wife Romaine, who believes he is innocent, concocts a complicated scheme to free him that involves falsely testifying against him in court, making her a "witness for the prosecution." But surprises await everyone involved. Watch the trailer for the film adaptation.

Angel Street, a.k.a. Gaslight in London, by Patrick Hamilton (1938). Set in 1880s London, this play tells the story of secret murderer Jack Manningham who is trying to convince his sweet wife Bella that she is going insane. Among his techniques: he gradually dims the gaslights in their house and tells her that she is imagining it. A police inspector named Rough from Scotland Yard arrives, determined to catch Manningham and save Bella. Below is a clip from the 1944 film version with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury, titled "Gaslight." 

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh (2005 on Broadway). A mystery writer is interrogated by the police after a series of grisly child murders that seem to resemble some of the plots in his stories. What the police uncover goes far beyond what they suspected.

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