Theatre to Die For

A dive into Benicia Theatre Group and their new play, DEATHTRAP

Brian Hough, the Board President of Benicia Theatre Group (formerly Benicia Old Town Theatre Group), has quite the resume. 

“For me, I’ve been an actor for many years,” he says. “My career started in Hawaii, and I was involved in community theatre there. I continued professionally acting in Tony and Tina’s Wedding on Norwegian Cruise Lines. I’ve also helped to build sets.”

Most recently, Hough’s been involved in our local theatre group for seven years.

Though he continues to wear many hats on the board (which is fitting as I interrupted him for our interview while he was installing a new water heater), seeing the final result of a show is his absolute favorite thing.

“What gets me going is the finished product … for us to show our craft and to have people say, ‘wow we really enjoyed that, it was a fabulous show.’ It means I did something right,” Hough says. 

Before you can reach a finished product, you have to start with the basics — such as choosing a play.

I was interested to hear what that process looks like for the Benicia Theatre Group.

“We have a committee that reads a number of plays, keeping in mind the format of a one intermission, two act play,” says Hough. “It also needs to be something that’s not too large of a cast since we’re limited to the B.D.E.S Hall size. Then the play selection committee gives a report on what they read and we choose, as a board, what will be the next production. We try to do a comedy in the spring and a drama in the fall. We’ve done it for many years in this pattern, which works very well for us.”

Up next for Brian Hough and the Benicia Theatre Group is their production of DEATHTRAP, which is a thriller-meets-comedy that was written in the late 1970s. It’s been nominated for multiple tony awards and touts itself as the longest-running Broadway comedy/thriller. 

“It’s basically about a washed up playwright,” Hough shares. “He‘s having a hard time being successful in his writings when he finds somebody that his wife suggests he get together with. They put their heads together to possibly come up with a play. He ends up coming up with the crazy idea of killing him. It takes place with a young writer who’s got some really good material, who’s a former student of his … the whole play is about how he’s conspiring. I don’t want to give anything else away!” he says with a laugh.

Another interesting thing about DEATHTRAP? There are only five cast members in total. 

Joe Fitzgerald will be playing Sidney Bruhl, the washed-up playwright, while Charlie Hodes is set to be Clifford Anderson, Sidney’s student and fellow playwright. Annie Larson is bringing us Helga ten Dorp, the mysterious psychic (“She’s going to be a character,” says Hough); Mark Shepard takes on Porter Milgrim, Sidney’s Lawyer, and Shauna Shoptaw rounds out the small but mighty cast as Myra Bruhl, Sidney’s encouraging wife.

“There’s a LOT of dialogue for most people in the show,” says Hough. “We had a really great turnout from auditions. It was not a problem; we could have cast the first night, so we got really lucky that way.” 

I couldn’t help but see a comparison between a small but mighty cast, and our small but mighty town. It’s fitting, as the community connection and appreciation that Hough expressed runs strong.

“I think it’s important that the city obviously supports local community theatre and all the arts, which is wonderful,” says Hough.

“I’m forever grateful for all they do for live theatre. The city’s important to us, and doing productions is our way of giving back. We always try to be active in the community in other ways, too … for example, we won best decorated commercial vehicle in the Torchlight Parade this summer. We got my Toyota 4-Runner and gussied it up with lace and banners. That was fun.”

Benicia Theatre Group would be thrilled to see a great turnout for the show, and they also welcome additional help from residents looking to get involved in the future.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” he says.

“Nobody’s paid on the board and we all do this for the love of theatre. Many of us put in hundreds of hours every year. I’ll be there [at the board meeting] tonight — we’re a working board — then we’re starting pre-production.”

DEATHTRAP will run from October 20th through November 12th, with showings on Friday and Saturday nights along with Sunday matinees. Tickets are $26 each; a $2 discount is offered for both students and seniors. Attendees can expect the show to take roughly two hours at the B.D.E.S Hall on West J Street. To purchase DEATHTRAP show tickets in advance, or for more information on how to get involved with Benicia Theatre Group, including volunteer and future audition information, please visit