Wendice (Clay Tyson) and Lesgate (Scottie Marzonie) thrust and parry. (Photo courtesy Bluebird Imaging)
Watch out, Mammoth … there’s murder afoot! And you only have to “Dial M” to find out whodunit, as the Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre presents “Dial M for Murder” at the new Edison Theatre.
Written by Frederick Knott and directed by Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Shira Dubrovner, “Dial M” debuted on Broadway in 1952 and enjoyed a long run before it was adapted for the well-known Alfred Hitchcock thriller released by Warner Brothers in 1954.
MMSA Ski Instructor Clay Tyson stars as Tony Wendice in his stage debut, a retired professional tennis player with a jealous streak that’s led him to contemplate killing his wealthy wife, Margot Wendice (Jessica Blum). Tony hires con artist Captain Lesgate (Scottie Marzonie) to off his wife, but there’s no such thing as a perfect murder. Further complicating the plot is the arrival of one of Margot’s former beaus, TV mystery writer Max Halliday (Ted Carleton), and the intrusion of one Inspector Hubbard (Grant Bentley), determined to crack the caper.
Taking place entirely in the Wendice’s apartment, one has to do little more than sit back and simply pay attention. Knott’s clever script requires no musical numbers or radical scene changes to captivate an audience of armchair detectives. All it needs are equally clever actors, and once again, this is one of the areas in which Dubrovner’s keen sense of casting works its magic.
Tyson is suitably stuffy as Wendice, who tries unsuccessfully to cover his disappointment at being relegated to selling tennis gear, as opposed to being a has-been tennis star. Blum is radiant as Margot, who’s reconciled herself to Tony’s station in life, but can’t seem to shake her lingering affection for Max, cannily delivered by Carleton, who downplays his literary expertise in finding ways to kill his fictional TV victims on a weekly basis. Marzonie is marvelously menacing as the mysterious Lesgate … or is it Wallace … or is it Adams … or is it Swann? And Bentley is deftly discreet as Hubbard, who plays his cards close to the trenchcoat.
“It’s always fun to thrill an audience,” said Dubrovner about directing the show. “The challenge is to help the audience predict what’s going to happen before the characters onstage know.” And that’s the best part of watching the show! Unexpected twists and turns are everywhere, and one must carefully keep an eye on not only what the characters are saying, but also what they’re doing. Subtleties abound in “Dial M!”
As opposed to SCT’s Murder Mystery series, this one’s not a comedy, but is no less snappy and quick on its feet. My only advice: back off a tick on the accents, and tighten up the cadence a beat or two, but otherwise, Dubrovner’s cast is very close to nailing Hitchcock’s trademark staccato delivery.
Dubrovner’s return to murder mysteries, her first since 2006, is refreshing. And while not a complex musical or deep drama, it’s a nice addition to her creative resume. Be sure to sneak up on this “Dial M” … it’s sure to sneak up on you!
“Dial M” plays now through April 17 Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. nightly, and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets: $20 adults, $18 seniors/students. Call 760.934.6592 for reservations.