Community Players Dials “M” for Murder

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
For the fifth show of the 2015-2016 season, Community Players goes back in time to the golden age of suspense theater—and to the era of the rotary phone. Dial “M” for Murder, by Frederick Knott, delivers suspense with a capital S and a long, sharp pair of scissors. The play is set in the London flat of Tony Wendice and his wife Margot. Tony, already frustrated at being supported by his rich wife, discovers that Margot is having an affair with Max Halliday, a mystery novelist. He decides to solve both problems by blackmailing an old college chum into killing Margot. The plan is simple: Tony will go to a party, first hiding Margot’s latchkey outside the front door so the chum can sneak in; at 11:00, Tony will call Margot, and while he’s on the phone with her, the chum will strangle her. It will look like a break-in gone wrong, and Tony will have an unbreakable alibi. The perfect murder? Well, the best laid plans . . .
Dial “M” began life as a teleplay for the BBC in 1952 and was shortly thereafter expanded to a West End play. It opened at Broadway’s Plymouth Theater on October 29, 1952, starring Maurice Evans, Richard Derr, and Gusti Huber, and enjoyed a 552-performance run. It is most well known for its 1954 film adaptation, with Knott’s screenplay, direction by Alfred Hitchcock, and Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings in the lead roles. Interestingly, it was Hitchcock’s only experiment with filming in 3-D. A 1968 TV version starred Laurence Harvey and Hugh O’Brien, and a 1981 TV version starred Christopher Plummer and Angie Dickinson. A Perfect Murder, a quite wretched big-screen remake starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, was released in 1998. The play has never been revived on Broadway.
In our production, Hannah Artman plays the intended victim, socialite Margot Wendice. Her husband, Tony, is played by Andrew German, and her friend and former lover, Max Halliday, is played by Branden Smith. Brian Artman portrays Tony’s Cambridge classmate, Captain Lesage, whom Tony hires to kill Margot. These four workhorses carry the action in the first half of the play and are supported in the latter half by John D. Poling as Hubbard and Jason Maloy as Thompson.
The action is directed by Opal Virtue. Sherry Bradshaw is producer. Judy Stroh is assistant director. Ray Rybarczyk is stage manager with help from Ms. Stroh. Sound and Properties are under the domain of Rich and Carol Plotkin. Dan Virtue is doing the lighting design, and Eddy Arteman is costumer.
The audience is transported to the Wendice’s apartment via a beautiful set designed and built by Chris Terven with help from Dave Fuller as scenic painter and Jason Maloy as assistant master builder.
Dial “M” for Murder runs for just two weekends. The pay-what-you-can preview performance is Thursday, May 5 with regular performances May 6-8 and May 12-15. As usual, evening performances commence at 7:30 with the Sunday matinee curtain opening at 2:30. Although this melodrama is not intended for very young persons, with no harsh language and only brief stage violence, it is suitable for preteens and above.


Photos by John Lieder