Monday, March 02, 2015

DIAL “M” FOR MURDER, another exciting murder mystery at GLT

Mystery books are the second highest money-making genre in literature, only exceeded by Romance/Erotica.  They are the highest rated television demand topic. 

Building on the desire of readers and viewers, Great Lakes Theater has included a “who done-it” in each of their last two seasons.  Both DEATHTRAP and THE MOUSETRAP met with audience approval.  Their present offerings, DIAL “M” FOR MURDER, should do the same.  Finding a cash cow topic, the theater has announced that Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is being staged in the 2015-2016 season.

As explained in GLT’s excellent “Teacher Preparation Guide,” DIAL “M” FOR MURDER is filled with “Deception, betrayal, passion and greed.”

The plot centers around Tony Wendice, a recently retired British tennis player, his wife, Margot, who Tony married for her money, and Max Halliday, a New York mystery writer, who is visiting in London, and may or may not be having an affair with Margot. 

Tony, wanting to inherit Margot’s money, develops a “perfect crime” plot, which includes his hiring a hit man.  The problems start when Margot, during the attempt to kill her, accidentally kills her attacker and is sentenced to death.  Will Tony inherit the money?  Will Max be able to save his love?  Will Inspector Hubbard see through the charade and save Margot? 

DIAL “M” was originally created by Frederick Knott as a BBC television production.  Both the play and the screen script were also written by Knott.  The 1954 Warner Brother’s film starred Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and was filmed in 3D, a new innovation in cinema filming.

Knott was noted for writing material that focused on women who innocently became victims of sinister plots.

Great Lakes production, under the focused eye of Charles Fee, is well paced, builds efectively to the creative and mind boggling conclusion, and grabs and holds attention.

The cast is universally excellent.  Beautiful Robyn Cohen makes for a believable Margot, the potential murdered wife.  She gives a convincing portrayal of a rich, perfectly coifed woman, who transitions into the potential victim.

Nick Steen, has become GLT’s choice for the handsome leading man in their murder mysteries.  He follows up his outstanding portrayal in DEATHTRAP with another believable characterization as Max, Margot’s lover.

Aled Davies, is accent and action perfect as Inspector Hubbard.  He seems born to play the wise policeperson who can and will solve all cases in a clever manner.

Jonathan Dyrud as Tony, has the lithe body need to make for a believable tennis player and the Iago good looks to give an air of innocence.

Dougfred Miller creates Captain Lesgate, Tony’s former college acquaintance,  as a perfect cad and a fine potential killer.

Russell Metheny’s fragmented set design allows for a clear view of the action, both on and off stage.  His incorporation of a large picture window on the second level, cleverly serves as a screen for Lucy Mackinnon’s projections.  The films of the receivers of telephone calls add to the visual dimension of the production, which is more effective than just hearing the voices of the participants, which is the standard way of staging the interactive scenes.

Rick Martin’s lighting design and Joe Court’s sound all aid in developing the mystery aspects of the script. 

Capsule judgement:  Great Lakes production of DIAL “M” FOR MURDER makes for a wonderful escapist evening of theatre.  Anyone liking murder mysteries, good acting, and good staging will enjoy this production.  As to the theatre’s evolving pattern of staging a mystery each season, as long as they continue in the vein of their DEATHTRAP, MOUSETRAP, and DIAL “M,” let’s have some more!

“Great Lakes Theater Teacher Preparation Guide for Dial ‘M’ for Murder, as prepared by Kelly Schaffer Florian and David Hansen, is a available from GLT’s Education Outreach program.

DIAL “M” FOR MURDER runs through March 22, 2015 at the Hanna Theatre.  For tickets: 216-664-6064 or