Sneak Peek by Laurel Hume of Dial M For Murder: Falcon Theatre
Falcon Theatre’s new production – the British murder mystery Dial M for Murder – is probably best known to most of us as the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Director Ben Raanan appreciates that.
“We are approaching the play with the knowledge that the audience has seen the movie. There is the nostalgia factor,” Raanan said.
For example, the movie, but not the play, opens with a passionate embrace.
“It was important for me to keep that,” Raanan said. “The audience can say ‘I know what this is going to be.’ If you liked the movie, you’ll hear your favorite, iconic lines.”
In Dial M for Murder, tennis pro 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 American Max Halliday.
The murder plan is, of course, not foolproof. Scotland Yard gets involved, in the character of Inspector Hubbard.
There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot-heavy mystery.
“The fun of the show is that the audience is in on everything, but still has to wonder if he is going to get away with it,” Raanan said.
Dial M for Murder is by English playwright Frederick Knott, who also wrote the equally popular Wait Until Dark.
The play opened in London in June 1952 and on Broadway later the same year. The movie, with screenplay by Knott, was released in May 1954, just three months after the Broadway production closed.
So, 64 years later, does the show still have appeal?
“The approach to the late-‘40s text for a modern audience is keeping it active,” Raanan believes, explaining that three-page monologues were acceptable to audiences accustomed to listening to radio dramas. “That’s when theater was more auditory. Now we need to energize the stories.”
The production, set in its original 1950s era, also will be energized by the intimate space of Falcon’s stage and by stylish costumes that reflect the period and class of the characters. Annie Grove plays Margot, Phineas Clark is her husband and Carter Bratton her lover. Derek Snow appears as Inspector Hubbard and Mike Hall as Lesgate.
Raanan’s full-time job is Director of Education and Outreach for Ensemble Theatre. His work takes him into schools with no theater program, and his specialty is working with students with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. Raanan uses the Hunter Heartbeat Method to teach social skills and communication through Shakespeare.
Raanan has directed eight full productions since arriving in Cincinnati in 2013 for a yearlong directing internship at Ensemble. Most of the shows were Ensemble’s apprentice company year-end productions. But last December, he directed Mockingbird as part of Falcon’s Fourth Wall Production series. The play is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old autistic girl.
Ted Weil, artistic director of Falcon Theatre, approached Raanan about directing Dial M for Muder.
“I have spent the past four years directing serious drama with socially conscious issues – that is my area,” Raanan said. “But it is fun to direct something meant to be a fun, escape evening at the theatre.”
Dial M for Murder opens Nov. 4, then runs weekends through Nov. 19 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783 or at http://falcontheater.net.