Granite Theatre’s presentation of “Dial M for Murder,” written by Frederick Knott, produced by David Jepson and directed by Brian Olsen, is a complicated and fascinating character study of Tony Wendice, a 1950’s London man who contemplates killing his wife, played with understated charisma by Rick Bagley.
Bagley as Tony takes on about 75 percent of the stage time in the piece, quite a challenge and his performance was my personal favorite aspect of this production along with the usual masterful set construction (by Mel Jolly, Will Perreira, and Jim Pollet) and wonderful props and set decoration (Beth Jepson). As an actor and director myself, it is always impressive to see how a great environment can enhance and increase the level of performance from Actors and the overall enjoyment for the audience of any given show. As such, I have been most impressed with Granite Theatre’s consistently high level of environment for their Actors to perform in.
Veronica Strickland as Tony’s wife Margo Wendice and Steve Spartano as Television writer Max Halliday are the other elements in the love triangle at the heart of this story. Fergus Milton as Captain Lesgate, Mark Sullivan as Inspector Hubbard and Olsen as Thompson round out the cast, all as metaphorical pawns, knights and rooks in the Chess game that is Tony against Max with Margo in the middle. Themes of love, passion and betrayal are truly understated with a reserved, cryptic execution. The script itself shines here. It’s not surprising that Alfred Hitchcock made a highly successful film version of this same script.
There were a few forgivable opening night jitters apparent during the March 23 performance, but nothing so obvious that could stop the enjoyment of the show from both myself and seemingly most other audience members of the near sell-out crowd, fascinated by the intrigue, rich dialogue, and most outstanding performances. There is one scene of violence about mid-way through the show, but I would guess this show is still appropriate for those thirteen and older.
Major credit goes to Bagley for taking on the challenge of a lead character who, by all accounts, should be seen as a bad guy and unlikeable, yet comes across as thoroughly watchable and complex throughout the show. Without hamming it up for either laughs or sympathy (which a lesser Actor might attempt), Bagley achieves both, occasionally using a perplexed facial expression or the slightest change of voice quality to take us along for the ride of Tony’s thought process and desperation.
After the show, the audience was invited for an opening night party with the cast and crew in Granite’s delightful lobby, which is adorned with massive coffee table books about the world of theater and cast photos from Granite’s rich history. (It is rumored that if you look very closely at the Actors in the photos you can hear these past thespians whisper ‘Carpe Diem!’)
Dial M for Murder is playing at Granite Theatre until April 8. Tickets can be purchased through their website and box office. For more information, https://www.granitetheatre.com/productions-new/197-dial-m-for-murder