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The Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse opens its 2009-10 season with a murder mystery by the late Ira Levin, who also wrote one of the most popular shows ever produced in the small theater, Veronica's Room, and wrote the spine-tingling booksA Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil.

This time, the play is the Edgar Award-winning and Tony-nominated Deathtrap,the longest-running comedy-thriller ever to play on Broadway (nearly 1,800 performances).

In it, playwright Sidney Bruhl (Peter Clapsis, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) is suffering from writer's block when he receives in the mail a wonderful manuscript from his protege, Clifford Anderson (Michael Benson, Tredwell in Black Coffee).

Sidney jokes to his wife, Myra (Karen Doxey, Lady Thiang, The King and I), that he is thinking about inviting young Clifford for a visit, then killing him and passing off the brilliant script as his own. Myra is completely nonplussed by the suggestion.

Even so, Sidney issues the invitation, strangles Clifford right in front of the horrified Myra, then drags him outside to bury him in the garden.

As with all Levin plays, that isn't the end of it.

When snoopy Dutch medium/crime buster Helga Ten Dorp (Lynda Benson, Betty in The Foreigner) shows up, Sidney's carefully laid plans begin to unravel. There's more murder, death, jaw-dropping surprises (involving startling sexual proclivities), and more twists and turns than a New England country lane, where the play is set.

The play was made into a movie in 1982, starring Michael Caine and the late Christopher Reeve.

If you go


Where: The Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Oct. 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. Oct. 11 and 18

Tickets: $10, reserved seating. Box office is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (352) 683-5113.