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On Stage

The Man Behind The Mystery

ssierszyn / Flickr / Creative Commons

Ira Levin was a writer whose creative output crossed genres and expectations.

Born in 1929 to a New York toymaker, Levin was supposed to join his father in the business. But in his senior year of college, young Levin entered a competition for television screenwriting. He did not win, but he was a runner-up, and he later sold the script to the NBC program that had sponsored the contest.

Levin was off and running. His first novel, the murder mystery A Kiss Before Dying, was a best-seller and was awarded an Edgar for Best First Novel. He turned to theatre after serving the following two years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He met with only modest success early on, beginning with his adaptation of Mac Hyman's novel No Time for Sergeants, and had, in fact, several flops, including a musical, Drat! That Cat!, for which he had written both book and lyrics.

In the mid-60s through the '70s, Levin was writing from the sweet spot, publishing such novels as Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. Then in 1978, he created his biggest theatrical success, the one he would be best remembered for: Deathtrap. This darkly comic mystery, a virtual kaleidoscope of plot twists, became a massive hit in the history of Broadway. Like much of Levin's work, it was eventually made into a film.

You can see Deathtrap on stage at The Forum Theatre from September 3rd to the 12th.