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Reviews of "Dial M For Murder"- Winter, 2002

Thursday, November 07, 2002 - 8:00:58 AM MST 

Peter Bubriski and Rachel Harker star in the Worcester Foothills Theatre production of 'Dial M For Murder.' (PHOTO COURTESY WORCESTER FOOTHILLS THEATRE / BOB DOLAN)

All hung up Worcester Foothills Theatre presents a workman-like 'Dial 'M' For Murder'

By Ken Cleveland

 

WORCESTER -- The air is thick with murder as ex tennis pro Tony Wendice (Peter Bubriski) plots to murder his wife. The motive is a time-tested one: money.

The Worcester Foothills Theatre performance of "Dial 'M' for Murder" is a fair presentation of the Frederick Knott play, with Jack Neary directing.

It suffers from a couple minor flaws, namely a bit of overacting by Bubriski and the sometimes-distracting Jimmy Stewart mannerisms of Peter Motson as Max Halliday, as the former lover who has returned to England as Margot Wendice (Rachel Harker) fights to keep the illusion of her marriage alive.

Not bad weaknesses for a play that leads the audience through the complexity of the murder plot with ease.

The play requires the audience to go along with the assumption that the murder plot would work, and then that the failure of the plot brings an entirely new - and for Tony Wendice, an acceptable result. It shows that the business of murder, while dirty, is also unpredictable. 

For Margot Wendice, the devoted wife, it could be the end. Of course, in a murder mystery, it is difficult to give too much detail, lest too much be given away.

 

This small production (compared to the massive cast of "Ragtime" in October), is a concise little mystery that can engage the audience in the intricacies of the plot. After the stunning production of "Ragtime," any play would pale by comparison.

 

The actors do their jobs well, with Barry Press as Captain Lesgate, Buzz Roddy as Inspector Hubbard and Bob Dolan as Thompson rounding out the cast.

 

"Dial 'M' for Murder" runs through Nov. 24. For ticket information, call (508) 754-4018.

 

'Dial M' connects on first try

 

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

 

By Paul Kolas

TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER

 

DIAL M FOR MURDER; by Frederick Knott, directed by Jack Neary. At Foothills Theatre, Worcester Common Outlets, 100 Front Street, Suite 137, Worcester. Performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24 (no 7 p.m. performance Nov. 24). Tickets: $23.50 to $29. Student tickets available. Call (508) 754-4018 for reservations.

     With Peter Bubriski, Rachel Harker, Peter Motson, Barry M. Press, Buzz Roddy and Bob Dolan.

WORCESTER-- “Dial M for Murder,” which was given an elegant and stylish opening by the Foothills Theatre Company on Sunday, isn't so much a whodunit as a will-he-get-away-with-it.

     The pleasure isn't shrouded in conventional mystery but unraveled in the clever, surprising details and missteps that accrue along the way over a quietly gripping two hours.

     Before the actors even step onstage, we are afforded a mood-enhancing pastiche of Bernard Herrmann's great music scores from classic Alfred Hitchcock films such as “Vertigo” and in one crucial scene, the screeching strings from “Psycho.”

     Adding to the sense of Hitchcockian deja vu is Peter Motson's often uncanny Jimmy Stewart mannerisms and vocal inflections. Motson plays Max Halliday, a TV crime writer with a most active imagination who has had an affair with the lovely and wealthy Margot Wendice (Rachel Harker), who in turn is married to an ex-tennis pro, Tony.

     Tony Wendice is almost a villain you can root for, devious but charming and charismatic to the core. He's been plotting to kill his wife for over a year, knowing of his wife's recent affair, and blackmails an old college chum with a shady past, Captain Lesgate, alias C.A. Swan, into performing the deed for a thousand pounds.

     Peter Bubriski throws himself into the role of Tony with ferocious cunning, constantly straining to keep one step ahead of all the ways his meticulously constructed plan can go awry. When it does and he's forced to go from Plan A to Plan B, there's a comic edge to Bubriski's performance that finely complements the conventional tensions that normally inhabit the mystery thriller genre.

     Director Jack Neary seems to have mined all he can of the playful, droll humor in Frederick Knott's drama -- including Max's suggestion to Tony in Act 3 that mirrors his original murder plan.

     Inspector Hubbard is one of those mildly patronizing, but fastidiously intrepid British bloodhounds assigned to the case, and Buzz Roddy does him full justice, reminding this viewer at least of Alex McCowen's memorable Chief Inspector Oxford in Hitchcock's “Frenzy.” Just when you think he's missed a clue along the way, he has been piecing it all together -- as the satisfying finale proves.

     Harker invests the role of the wife in peril with patrician flair and grace, someone who is more resourceful and observant than she's ultimately given credit for by her nefarious husband. Barry M. Press is quite effective as Swan, the college mate who figures into Tony's murder plans in a very unfortunate manner.

     The one-room set is well appointed, thanks to the discerning eye of Ken Goldstein, matched by Nicole Watson Oehling's refined costume design. Finally, praise goes to Edward Thurber for that wonderfully evocative Herrmann music.

 

 

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

 

ARTS & CULTURE

 

MetroWest Daily E-News 

 

 

Foothills rings up a hit with `Dial `M' for Murder'

By David Brooks Andrews / Correspondent

Thursday, November 7, 2002

 

As we grow more sophisticated as audiences, it becomes harder for stage thrillers to make us feel that delicious sense of suspense, as if we are children willing to abandon our disbelief for an evening. 

The Worcester Foothills Theatre regularly includes a thriller in their season, but they've come up with one of their best in a long while in Frederick Knott's "Dial `M' for Murder." The play originally opened in New York City in 1952 and was made into a popular motion picture in 1954 starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings.

 

The story avoids feeling dated by refusing to follow an obvious formula. Instead it keeps us guessing from the very beginning as to where it's headed, if you haven't seen the film version recently or don't remember it in detail.

 

Under Jack Neary's superb direction (he's a local playwright whose work is often produced by Foothills), the production makes hay of the period elements by handling them with great polish and drawing obvious links to some of Hitchcock's more famous thrillers. While part of the pleasure of this show is its suspense, there's also plenty of enjoyment in how the conventions of the genre are handled.

 

When the play opens, Margot and Tony Wendice are being visited in their well-appointed London apartment by the American Max Halliday, her former lover. She's convinced that her husband is unaware of the relationship she's had with Max.

 

Tony is a former tennis star, who was successful enough to develop a name but not successful enough to become wealthy at it. Part of that no doubt has to do with the era, when sports stars received much more modest incomes. And so his wife's money is of interest to him. Peter Bubriski in the role of Tony is one of the real draws of the show as he exudes just the right degree of sophisticated British glibness and manipulation, while keeping things moving with a great sense of pace and timing.

 

We know there are lots of things hidden beneath his surface, which is underscored by the quickness with which he drops his facade-one moment graciously helping Max into a dinner jacket and the next moment, when he's alone, throwing the jacket, literally, into the next room.

 

Rachel Harker plays Margot as a lovely woman who's glad to see her former lover, but who makes it clear that she's now committed to her husband. Harker goes for a pleasant neutrality, until the action picks up, and she's truly believable at portraying the disheveled terror of having undergone a very harrowing experience indeed, while adding a sexy bedroom touch. She has nice proper London accent.

 

Peter Motson plays Max Halliday, a writer of television thrillers, with a clear hint of Jimmy Stewart, both in his voice and mannerisms, without overdoing it. It's a conscious wink at a film like "Rear Window" while conveying the sense of a man who seems to be unaware of Tony's evil plans, but whose underlying intelligence and decency should not be dismissed.

 

When Tony sends his wife and Max off to the theater one evening, he lures over a Captain Lesgate to assist him in making plans to murder his wife. This scene is one of the more delightful in the play, and Barry Press as Captain Lesgate makes terrific adjustments as he's exposed.

 

At one point, while talking theoretically, the writer Max assures Tony that "in real life murders don't turn out as they do on paper." We realize this fact is at the very heart of the story. Things obviously will not turn out as Tony plans.

 

There are many exciting moments and intricate details to the play, which for the sake of suspense are best left unmentioned. Suffice it to say that Buzz Roddy brings a charming meat-and-potatoes (or should we say shepherd's-pie-and-boiled-peas) practicality to Inspector Hubbard as he probes to determine exactly what has happened.

 

In some ways, the first two acts are the most satisfying as they set up the suspense and cause us to fall in love with the characters, both as people and as reminders of movie stars from a bygone era. The final act feels a little more conventional as it unravels the mystery and dangles clues in front of us. 

Ken Goldstein's elegant recreation of a 1950s London apartment, with built-in cabinets, chandelier, and fireplace is the Foothills at their scenic best and very much helps to set the mood.

 

The crispness of the performances and freshness of the story make this a delightful evening for anyone who enjoys a good thriller or, for that matter, anyone who believes thrillers don't have much pleasure to offer.

 

"Dial `M' for Murder" runs through Nov. 24 at the Worcester Foothills Theatre, Worcester Common Outlets, 100 Front Street, Worcester. Tickets range from $23.50 to $29 and can be purchased by calling 508-754-4018.