2009 The Charleston Gazette Review: Dial M for Murder (Play)

2009 The Charleston Gazette Review: Dial M for Murder (Play)


Play Review: Dial M For Murder By: V.C. McCabe

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Alfred Hitchcock’s substantial shadow has been cast over the city of Charleston this week with a stage production of “Dial M For Murder” by the Kanawha Players.

It was undoubtedly Hitchcock’s 1954 cinematic thriller that brought the most attention to this story of a murderous husband, but the film was adapted from English playwright Frederick Knott’s stage drama.

Sitting in on Thursday evening’s dress rehearsal, I found that the Kanawha Players have managed to capture the white-knuckle suspense of Hitchcock’s film while remaining true to the intelligent and intricately woven intrigue of Knott’s original play.

All three acts of the play are set in the living room of a London flat inhabited by ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice and his wealthy wife, Margot. The confined space contributes a claustrophobic element to the mood of the play, allowing the actors to circle the stage like caged animals.

It is soon revealed that Tony has been plotting to kill his wife since learning of her affair the previous year, but greed is as much as a motive for his sinister plan as jealousy and revenge.

Tony, having married Margot for her money and being the sole beneficiary of her will, hopes to claim a large inheritance once she has been dispatched.

Actors Chris Turpening and Jessica Rogers portray the troubled married couple, and Ashley Wilhelm stars as Margot’s ex-lover Max Holliday.

Rogers also directed the production and aimed to bring a fresh perspective to the story by asking the cast to avoid Hitchcock’s film when preparing for their roles. The tactic seems to have played off.

Jessica Rogers is effective as the distraught wife, and Chris Turpening’s Tony is as posh and calculating as a snake in a tuxedo.

John Halstead takes on the role of C.A. Swann (a.k.a Captain Lesgate), a former college mate of Tony’s with a shady past. Tony uses blackmail to transform his old acquaintance into a contract killer.

Tony’s elaborate killer plan goes terrible awry when his would-be assassin confronts a scissor-wielding Margot. The spine-chilling scene is just the beginning of the plot’s sensational twists and turns.

The second half of the play is even more entertaining than the first, thanks to Michael Harris’ sly, pipe-smoking Inspector Hubbard and the angry petulance his presence evokes from the other characters.

More than a simple whodunit, this complex psychological thriller expertly examines the unpredictability of human nature that ultimately derails Tony’s so-called perfect murder.

“Dial M For Murder” will be performed at the Kanawha Players Theater, 309 Beauregard Street at 9 p.m. Oct. 30, 8 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 6-7, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 1. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for ages 18 and under.

Published by V. C. McCabe

V.C. McCabe is an Appalachian poet and the author of Ophelia (Femme Salvé Books, 2023) and Give the Bard a Tetanus Shot (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2019). She has edited for Barren Magazine, the New International Voices series (Ice Floe Press), and Frontier Poetry. Her work appears in ekphrastic exhibits and journals worldwide, including EPOCH, Poet Lore, and Prairie Schooner. Her website is vcmccabe.com.

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