Falcon’s Dial M For Murder Is a Mystery with Class
Posted On June 26, 2017
Review by Ken Stern of Dial M for Murder: Falcon Theatre
Are the well-to-do most apt toward criminal behavior? Whether Wall Street heists or murdering their wives, is it just that the rich have more to gain? Or is it that we tend toward stories of the upper crust doing wrong because they are so suave and look so good? The cast and crew certainly prove that class shows in Dial M for Murder, at Newport’s Falcon Theatre, playing through November 19th.
Lights come up on a stylish couple kissing in a well appointed London living room. Margot (Annie Grove, attractive in one beautiful outfit after another) is married to Tony, but still has feelings for Max (Carter Bratton, channeling Robert Cummings with his square jawed good looks and Brylcreemed hair), just in from New York. While the story makes clear that she is committed to her husband, Tony (Phineas Clark), life is complex. Tony, now retired from pro tennis, isn’t happy with Margot, probably more so because he married her for money than his discovery of her affair with Max, a TV mystery writer. Tony’s obsession with a letter Margot transferred from handbag to handbag could be the death of her as he plots the perfect murder. Grove offers a Margot with a full range of feelings. Clark’s Tony is equally strong as the scheming, dissembling, quick thinking, and almost completely thorough conniving husband. Ben Raanan gets credit for directing the cast through the well-paced drama.
Margot’s and Tony’s English accents pull us into the story, as does the 1950s setting (great liquor cart; set and lighting design by Ted Weil) and the equally stylish costumes, well-designed by Beth Joos (Max starts out in a double breasted suit and Margot’s red dress recalls Grace Kelly’s in the 1954 Hitchcock thriller.) This is a well-presented, as well as a well-made, play.
Playwright Frederick Knott tantalizes us with the story, the conversations and interactions from the opening kiss onward. Each simple prop, repeated handled, will have its role: handbag, key, letter, scissors, and one more item the audience will have to watch for near the end. You will have to see for yourself, watching carefully for clues as switches are made in the objects handled by Tony, Margot, Max, and the Inspector.
Knott’s beguilingly teasing technique is for Tony to narrate the plot before it unfolds. Tony’s foil is primarily poor old classmate Lesgate (Mike Hall, with a great mustache and a bit of a befuddled manner, as befits a not successful con from their Cambridge days). The story as told and the plot as acted out fit like a well-tailored glove.
Tony’s scheme proceeds although perhaps not exactly as he had hoped. And the word-play teases: can one commit “the perfect murder?” The professional writer Max knows “in stories things usually turn out the way the author wants them to; and in real life they don’t.” Watch, as wonderfully, Tony’s perfectly constructed plot smack up against the vagaries of humans being themselves, not following a script of which they are unaware, acting unpredictably.
As always with an English murder, there must be a police inspector. Derek Snow, also impeccably dressed, enters as Inspector Hubbard. His calm presence is also a simple one. The audience’s role, for this play, is to watch the action attentively while listening carefully. In the end, the only tricks are up the sleeve of Inspector Hubbard. Knott gives him one of the most memorable lines of the play, telling Max: “They talk about flat-footed policemen. May the saints protect us from the gifted amateur.”
Dial M for Murder plays Thursday through Saturdays, closing November 19th. For more information visit http://falcontheater.net or call 513-479-6783Call: 513-479-6783 for tickets.