In days gone by Dundee Rep was considered the more serious-minded of the two repertory theatres on the banks of the River Tay. Perth Theatre, by comparison, had a more middlebrow bent, with a greater emphasis on putting "bums on seats" than encouraging its audience to sample the delights of the more challenging works in the theatrical canon.

Now, however, there are signs that the situation might be being reversed. Perth Theatre's artistic director Lu Kemp has begun her 2018 programme in the impressively redeveloped playhouse with a superb production of Scottish dramatist David Harrower's modern classic Knives In Hens; and she will follow that success with a staging of Shakespeare's powerful and complex Richard III.

By contrast, Dundee Rep brings us Deathtrap, the 1978 comedy-thriller by American writer Ira Levin (author of the famous Nazi hunter novel The Boys From Brazil). A tremendous Broadway success in its day, Levin's bold pastiche (in which successful stage thriller writer Sidney Bruhl becomes involved in a preposterous, and murderous, plot of his own) is a curious choice for the Rep in 2018.

Unlike Edward Albee's evergreen 1962 American comedy Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (directed brilliantly for the Rep by James Brining in 2009), Levin's drama looks tired and timeworn. The deliberately ludicrous, often obvious, storyline (in which there are more twists than a 1950s dancehall) hinges on the monetary motives of the indebted Bruhl. Likewise, Deathtrap shows all the signs of having been written to a commercially-driven model.

"Make 'Em Laugh" goes the Broadway song, and Levin seeks to do that by stretching the conventions of the stage thriller to the nth degree. Bruhl (the ever-excellent Lewis Howden) and his wife Myra (Emily Winter) seem to be hatching a plot involving Clifford Anderson (Tom England), a former student of Bruhl's who appears to have written a surefire hit show.

However, like a Russian doll, this plot contains a plot, within which lies another plot. No-one could get to the bottom of such a ridiculously convoluted series of events, except, perhaps, Helga ten Dorp, the caricatured eccentric foreigner (played, with what seems close to embarrassment, by fine actor Irene Macdougall) who claims to be gifted with extrasensory perception.

Director Johnny McKnight's production is, ironically, given the play's homicidal tendencies, quite bloodless. Its best joke is an unintended one.

Bruhl's lawyer Porter Milgrim (Ewan Donald on deliciously spivvish form) comments on how much he "loves" the room in which the author works. This is laughable, as designer Kenny Miller has decorated the Bruhl household in an ugly combination of monochrome and red which has all the homeliness of a melting iceberg.

There was, on opening night, further inadvertent humour when the loud blast of music to accompany a character's sudden, unexpected entry occurred seconds before he actually arrived.

An uncertain, unconvincing and, frankly, boring production of a laboured 1970s crowd-pleaser, this Deathtrap has more signposts than the M9. Not so much a whodunnit as a why do it?