Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2002

Dial ‘M’ for Murder by Frederick Knott has been around for fifty-years and it still has plenty of thrills and excitement for new audiences. The Theater Barn continues their tradition of first-rate summer mysteries with an attractive and entertaining production of this classic.

Actually, Dial ‘M’ for Murder is not a Whodunnit. You see exactly who does what to whom, how, where, and when. This is a “Will-He-Get-Away-With-It-?” as we watch the criminal plot the perfect murder, and then successfully replot it to his advantage when the wrong party ends up dead. As Tony, the criminal (but not the killer), Tom Henry is increasingly slimy and, of course, more and more sure his ultimate triumph as the play progresses. He is perhaps a tad too old to be portraying a gentleman who gave up a professional tennis career only a year ago, but that is a minor point. His physique can pass for that of a man who played tennis in his prime.

Christina Meyers is impossibly young and beautiful as Margot. Alas, she is weak vocally, and often hard to hear, which is frustrating in a play where every word may be a clue. Meyers claims an impressive resume of stage and screen work for a young actress just starting out, along with study at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. I hope that as the run of this show progresses she will be able to rely on that good background to help her become more audible.

Jesse Wilson caught my attention and my eye as Max. He is an appealing performer who I would be happy to see more of on local stages. John Trainor, who seems to make a career out of playing slightly befuddled British police inspectors, does so here to good effect. Richard Waddingham has the least stage time in this play, and therefore made the least impression on me.

If there was one thing I looked for in Phil Rice’s even-handed direction of the play, it was a little more melodrama. The play is actually billed as a melodrama, not a mystery, and I would have enjoyed just a tiny bit more moustache-twirling greeted by appropriate looks of horror from the innocent victims. Perhaps some dramatic finger-pointing. A little more schtick. It would have made an entertaining evening into a really fun one.

Abe Phelps has designed a handsome little set that works admirably despite its small size and tight quarters. The lighting requirements for a murder mystery are usually very precise, and Allen Phelps has stepped up to the bar and met all the demands admirably. Kyle Harvey’s costumes are unremarkable, as they are meant to be. This is not the Folies Bergeres. But Harvey does do a lot towards making Meyers look impossibly young and beautiful in a series of lovely and flattering gowns and day dresses which are a treat to see.

Dial ‘M’ for Murder runs through July 21 at The Theater Barn, located on Rt. 20 just west of the town of New Lebanon, NY. The show runs two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission. There is a murder on stage that would be frightening to small children, but ages 8 and up will enjoy the suspense. Call the box office at 518-794-8989 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2002

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