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By John Quinn
Before the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, directed the stylish 1954 film, “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” was a successful television and stage play. Fredrick Knott’s convoluted thriller is revived this month at Eastpointe’s Broadway Onstage Live Theatre.
The theme is rather simple. As Robert Burns put it, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.” In this play, a perfect murder is easier to plan than to execute. When the plan shatters, picking up the pieces makes for taut drama.
Tony Wendice, (Patrick O’ Lear), bon vivant and retired tennis pro, married for money. Margot (Sharron Nelson), bored and lonely whilst Tony was on the circuit, had an affair with an American author, Max (Donald Couture). Tony learns of their infidelity and decides to eliminate Margo to inherit her wealth.
Of course, a spouse is the prime suspect in a case like this, so Tony blackmails a petty crook, “Captain” Lesgate (Daniel Woitulewicz), to murder Margot in their apartment while Tony can establish an air-tight alibi. Margo, however, manages to kill her assailant. Quick-thinking Tony improvises Plan B and frames Margo for first degree murder instead of self-defense. Can Inspector Hubbard (John Arden McClure) unravel the plot before an innocent woman goes to the gallows?
A single set, small cast thriller would seem to be the perfect match for Broadway Onstage’s intimate venue. What is lacking is the thrill. Jane Burkey’s uneven pacing disrupts a natural tempo implicit in the script. Nor is that pacing improved by a cast still fumbling for lines on opening night. With luck, the situation will improve during the run.
It is to be expected that a play named “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” would include several telephone calls. Here we can eavesdrop on the “other” end of the conversation – yet “eavesdrop” is the wrong word. The sound system is cranked so loud the voices ring from the rafters like the trump of doom, sending snickers rippling through the audience. In creating suspense, as is most often the case, subtlety is the best policy.
‘Dial ‘M’ for Murder’
Broadway Onstage, 21517 Kelly Road, Eastpointe. Friday-Saturday through Nov. 17. 110 minutes. $18. 586-771-6333. http://www.BroadwayOnStage.com