Calling All Mystery Buffs to Falcon’s Dial M for Murder
Posted On June 26, 2017
Review by Laurel Humes of Dial M for Murder: Falcon Theatre
Falcon Theatre does a fine job with Dial M for Murder, the 1950s-era British murder mystery onstage through November 19 at the Newport theater.
If you are new to the play or the subsequent Alfred Hitchcock movie, there is a killing and a mystery to untangle. But this is a very British, very civilized murder. No blood or gore. All the characters – con man, playboy, police – wear ties and speak perfect King’s English. And they speak it a lot, so be prepared to listen well.
In Dial M for Murder, retired tennis star Tony Wendice has a seemingly foolproof plan for the murder of his wealthy wife, Margot. He wants her money, but there is also a revenge motive: she’s had an affair with Max Halliday, who – important to the plot – is an American crime fiction writer.
The murder plan is, of course, not foolproof. And that is when the fun begins, with multiple twists and turns. The audience knows whodunit; the pleasure is finding out if the villain gets away with it.
Falcon’s version of the play opens – as the movie did – with Margot and Max in a passionate kiss. But we learn it’s for old time’s sake, because Margot broke off their affair a year earlier, when Tony vowed to be a better husband. Tony doesn’t know about the affair (or does he?), and now the husband and lover are meeting for the first time.
Annie Grove is a beautiful, blond Margot (Grace Kelly had the movie role). Grove plays Margot with the polish and grace of a wealthy socialite, and adds a wide-eyed naiveté that takes everything at face value.
With an easy style, Grove carries off the elegant outfits costume designer Beth Joos has created for her. They are all perfect 1950s, down to the ever-present gloves. The men’s costumes, too, are period – when was the last time you saw an ascot?
Carter Bratton is a handsome Max, balancing his discomfort at meeting his lover’s husband with her need to hide their former relationship, even though he is clearly still in love with her.
Phineas Clark plays Tony with smooth, ultra-confident mannerisms that cover up his conniving murder plan. In an outstanding scene, Clark almost gleefully lays out a blackmail plot to force con man Lesgate (Mike Hall) to do his bidding. Hall does a wonderful job with the role, squirming in the realization he has no choice.
Inspector Hubbard (Derek Snow) doesn’t appear until the second act post-killing. Snow fills the stage with his strong presence and hints that he suspects more than he shows. Snow’s finest scene comes near the end, as he devises and executes his own foolproof plan to trap the villain.
Director Ben Raanan keeps a brisk pace throughout the show. Act One takes some time to build up momentum, time needed to introduce characters. But patience is rewarded when the plot starts to roll.
The director and cast together build up tension as they skillfully execute playwright Frederick Knott’s clever, twist-and-turn script. The result is a most enjoyable evening at the theater.
Dial M for Murder runs through Nov. 19 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783Call: 513-479-6783 or at http://falcontheater.net.