note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
It is pleasant enough usually ably acted and evenly directed and if there are nay issues with it, it lies with the play itself and its flaws. The play was written by written by English playwright Frederick Knott, whose work often focused on women who innocently become the potential victims of sinister plots. The play premiered in 1952 on BBC television, before being performed on the stage in the same year in London's West End in June, and then New York's Broadway in October. It was later made into the 1954 American crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
The tale revolves around an ex professional tennis star Tony Wendice and his socialite wife, Margot. After a chaotic schedule that his wife bitterly complaints about, and she begins an affair with an American television writer, Tony decides to retire from the tennis circuit.
Drew Anthony Allen is the stuffy Brit, Tony Wendice who wants to do away with his wife to inherit her fortune. Wendice is aloof with the nearly cliché stiff upper lip attitude of the British. At times however, Allen seems too aloof and above it all and without any passion or emotions at all. He appears separated from what is going on with his wife and the television writer, to aloof and distance to really care. He seems to be unable to muster any kind of rage to propel him to plot and murder his wife.
Aimee Doherty is his wife Margot, likewise stuffy and upper class British, a bit detached from her husband and reconnecting with him She struggles to deal with the British accent at times slipping and drifting out of it. There are times when she is not merely reserved but somewhat flat and without animation, too much stiff Brit.
Rudy Sanda is Capt. Lesgate, Wendice’s long lost college buddy who gets blackmailed into committing murder for his old college chum. Capt. Lesgate is a sleazy man with a nefarious past full of dark secrets and criminal deeds, thought usually of the larcenous kind.
What gets to be the real treats here comes with Boston actor Bill Mootos as Max Halliday the television writer and Brandon Whitehead as Inspector Hubbard.
Mootos who was excellent in last season’s “good People” at the Gamm shines here too. He is concerned and caring as the televisions writer who had a fling with the socialite.
A main saving grace to this production is the Inspector Hubbard, played by Brandon Whitehead. Whitehead is a deft and smart combination of a kind of Colombo, and down to earth detective with the smarts and determination to solve the case, not matter what the odds. Whitehead is a delight as the disheveled somewhat gritty and gruff detective. He ably snags some Colombo touches to spark it all up which he does with flair and sass.
Finally there is Jonathan Fisher as Thompson who is solid as the policeman.
Amiee Turner directs with a usually deft sense of pacing and mood and gets the best out of Mootos and Whitehead.
Katryne Hecht’s set is simply superb, at once elegant at times spooky and full of mood and atmosphere. David Sexton’s lighting design is brooding and mysterious, very effective and evocative.
The play itself has flaws and could have taken something from the writers of Colombo, yes I know it was first and their effective techniques. The set up in Act I takes far to long to come together. Both use the knowledge of the crime and the criminal from the beginning. Both use a clever detective to figure it all out and to prove it. The rest comes from the flatness of some of the performances, the utter lack of emotional nuance and presence.
“Dial M for Murder” runs through Nov. 16 at Ocean State Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. Tickets are $34-$49. Call (401) 921-6800, or visit oceanstatetheatre.org.