Fans of murder-mystery have a feast in store with the Maskers’ new production of “Deathtrap,” set to run for a second weekend. Greed, deceit and treachery lead to delectable murders by tantalizing means in the cooking up of a surefire mystery for the stage. The 1978 play-within-a-play by Ira Levin — known as well for “Rosemary’s Baby” — holds the record for Broadway’s longest-running comedy-thriller.

Even those buffs who know the outcome from having seen the play or its movie version will relish the Maskers’ crisp production. Director Bart Shattuck does double duty portraying Sidney Bruhl, a middle-aged playwright who has yet to match his one big earlier success. Shattuck’s fluent delivery and relaxed demeanor lend a commanding presence to a man who sees himself in desperate straits. In his debut with the Maskers, Shattuck makes an impressive contribution as both actor and director.

A college seminar supposedly yields Sidney a protégé in aspiring playwright Clifford Anderson, impersonated by Maskers stalwart Erik Perkins. With his character evincing as much cupidity and duplicity as the next, Perkins plays the role with a fitting balance of strength and vulnerability. A subtle clue to Clifford’s makeup is the handkerchief he displays at his entrance; in the gay culture of the 1970s, a red handkerchief hanging from the right back pocket of one’s jeans had specific sexual connotations.

Another familiar face, Katie Underhill gives an exasperated impersonation of Sidney’s clueless wife Myra that seems right on the money. Unflagging in her support and ceaselessly put upon, Myra is a victim from the get-go and probably deserves what she gets, heh heh.

After a long absence, renowned mask performer Beverly Mann returns to the Maskers stage to provide further plot twists and a generous measure of comic relief as the Dutch psychic Helga ten Dorp. A flesh-and-blood cartoon character, Mann has some of the play’s funniest lines. Sally Baldwin rounds out the cast as Sidney’s attorney Portia Milgrim. Initially a conscientious counselor, Portia shows her own nasty nature only towards the end. In all, the ensemble works handsomely together. The tensions between Sidney and Clifford are especially in tune.

Despite its thrills and chills, twists and turns, high jinks and low, “Deathtrap” may not suit theatergoers looking for real drama. The murder-mystery genre turns on “intricate plotting and glib superficial characters,” as Sidney terms it at one point. He jokes with Clifford about the disease thrilleritis malignis; those afflicted seek not only to solve the puzzle but to replicate it in “the fevered pursuit of the one-set five-character moneymaker.”

Clifford responds that he isn’t pursuing money. “It’s not a disease,” he says, “it’s a tradition: a superbly challenging theatrical framework in which every possible variation seems to have been played. Can I conjure up a few new ones?”

Playwright Levin conjured one of his own by factoring in a gay involvement on the crest of gay liberation and before the AIDS scourge was felt — a timely variation that bears a certain irony. Speaking with his attorney Portia, Sidney declares (in supremely disingenuous fashion) Clifford’s proclivity “none of my business,” feigning the same benign ignorance that has brought about the current “Don’t ask don’t tell” kerfuffle.

Beyond civility and gut reaction there is little human kindness or feeling to the play. Love is supposedly the basis of two key relationships, but it is hardly evidenced or expressed. We are expected to believe there is or has been some modicum of affection between respective characters because, well, we have been given that to believe. Apart from the mechanics of the plot, though, it is irrelevant to the goings-on. By and large, while the characters may harbor secrets, they are basically two-dimensional. The plot, for all its twists, is distinctly linear.

All the same, the dialogue is quick and clever and deserves keen hearing. Playgoers expecting foul play at any moment should keep in mind that the playwright is having fun with them. Several good jokes seemed to go unappreciated on the night I attended. One is especially worth repeating. Catching Sidney up on her family, Portia says, “Cathy loves Vassar.” Sidney replies, “And Vassar versa, I’m sure.”

Designer Christopher Moore has handsomely realized Sidney’s souvenir-studded study in a converted stable. Despite the room’s congenial ambiance, an array of antique weapons positioned more or less randomly on the walls sets an ominous tone. Displayed among them are posters of the playwright’s past productions that hint at his dissimulation: two have his name with an “i” and two with a “y.”

Lighting and sound design are by Neal Harkness and Tom Sadowski, who presumably collaborated on the striking effects for the obligatory rainstorm. Pat Hustus once again marshaled props, which this time include an authentic and essential Smith-Corona typewriter. Desiree Lobato has overseen costumes, and Valerie Philbrick hair and makeup. Backstage, Ivy Lobato rules.

Fond memories aside, this reviewer is always happy to visit the Maskers’ Waterfront Theater. One reason is that because of the playing area’s thrust configuration in a relatively small space, hearing is easier. Hallelujah. Seeing is also easier, and not just due to proximity. With the theater’s sharply raked seating, a member of the audience can look more nearly down upon, rather than across to, the action. Since virtually all of the lighting is directed down, the action is better illuminated seen from a higher seat. A friend with diminished vision gratefully remarked on the difference.

Included in the play’s program is a one-page audience survey of preferences and suggestions. If you attend a performance, do make a point to fill it out. The lineup of plays for the coming year will be determined in the coming weeks. The Maskers deserve credit for trying to identify and answer their audience’s interests.

“Deathtrap” will be presented again at Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 7 through 9, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Maskers Waterfront Theater, 43 Front St. The play is not recommended for children. Tickets are $15, $10 for teens. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 338-9668; at Yo Mamma’s Home, 96 Main St.; or at the theater one hour before curtain.

Belfast resident William Nelson regularly checks the batteries on his hearing aids after every 100,000 words.