Monday, July 17, 2023

Dial M for Murder - Westport Country Playhouse

The murder-mystery genre has always been a popular staple for the theatrical stage.  But when you exclude musicals from this group, there have actually been only a handful of notable productions over the years.  Three that come quickly to mind are Sleuth, Deathtrap, and the Grand Dame of them all, The Mousetrap (which, incidentally, is scheduled to open on Broadway during the 2023 - 2024 season).  Another play that fits into this category is Dial M for Murder, receiving a spine-tingling production at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 29.


L-R: Kate Abbruzzese, Krystel Lucas, Patrick Andrews, and Kate Burton in “Dial M for Murder."  Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher has made a few changes to Frederick Knot’s original work (another incidental - Mr. Knot is also the writer of another well-known theatrical thriller - Wait Until Dark), but each has a negligible effect on the production.  Both are just gender bender additions.


I don’t want to talk too much about the plot.  Why spoil the fun?  Suffice it to say there is a seemingly well-thought through murder, intrigue, blackmail, plot twists and turns, and an intrepid detective that brings the guilty party to justice.


Kate Abbruzzese in “Dial M for Murder." Photo by Carol Rosegg

At the beginning of the show there is a scene with a substantial amount of exposition - here’s the plan, how the murder is going to take place, and the ramifications of the evil deed.  It might seem like too much talking, but is necessary (as well as compelling) in order for the rest of the production to proceed on its carefully crafted course.


Director Mark Lamos, his last show as Artistic Director of the Westport Country Playhouse, and Mr. Hatcher have brought energy, excitement and a tad of titillation to this war horse of a play.  The show has the characters engaged in a life or death chess match and Mr. Lamos has adeptly, as well as playfully, plotted each intricate move around Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge’s stylish set of a London flat.  Emma Deane’s Lighting Design provides atmospheric ambiance for heart-stirring moments of the show.  Sound Designer Kate Marvin has spliced together music from the mid-1950’s to give the entire production a bewitching, jazzy film noir soundtrack.


Kate Burton in “Dial M for Murder." Photo by Carol Rosegg

The cast of the show is marvelous.  Kate Abbruzzese’s Margot Wendice, wife and would-be victim, may appear meek, but shows resolve when needed most. Patrick Andrews’ Tony Wendice, gives a smooth, calculating performance as her husband.  Krystel Lucas, tall and beautiful (garbed in sumptuous outfits by Costume Designer Fabian Fidel Aguilar), gives a shrewd, wholly satisfying performance as mystery writer Maxine Hadley.  Denver Milord’s imbues his portrayal of Lesgate, the wildcard of the group, with just the right amount of edginess and desperation.  Veteran actress Kate Burton is wonderful as the unvarnished, intrepid Inspector Hubbard.  With her no-nonsense navy blue skirt and jacket, black pumps and matching purse she shows pluck and determination in catching the bad guy.


Dial M for Murder, a theatrical treat during these hot summer days, playing at the Westport Country Playhouse through July 29.  Click here for dates, times, and ticket information.




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