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“DIAL ‘M’ FOR MURDER” by Frederick Knott (2004)

2 Images of scenes from the play (ALL PHOTOS BY CAROL ROSEGG)


"As diabolically charming as its leading character, Dial “M” for Murder tells the fiendishly clever tale of Tony Wendice, an aging tennis star-party boy who conceives what he thinks to be the perfect crime. Though she's unaware of the fact, Tony married his wife Margot for her money; that's why her own indiscreet affair with American writer Max Halliday—which she believes Tony doesn't know about—plays so neatly into Tony's plans. He contrives to get Margot and the visiting Max out of the house for an evening, so that he can conspire with a duplicitous gentleman who will kill Margot for £1,000; that's in Scene 2. In Scene 4, the plan is put in motion... except Margot doesn't just passively allow herself to be killed. (If you've seen the famous movie starring Grace Kelly then you know what happens; if you haven't, I'll allow you to discover for yourself what it is that she does.)

And then in Act II, with Margot not dead (but someone else very much murdered), the thousand pounds unaccounted for, and a life of leisure and luxury not yet a foregone conclusion for the conniving Tony—well, things really start to get interesting.

What's ultimately so neat about Dial "M" for Murder (which was penned by Frederick Knott, whose works also include Wait Until Dark) is that it's almost an anti-thriller: the audience watches Tony plot his masterful crime, and also sees Margot foil it—we know all the facts all the time, and yet the suspense is both palpable and relentless. That's because the fun of the play is in watching Tony wriggle his way out of each unforeseen setback, making one swift and sneaky move after another to try to keep his various opponents off-balance and get what he wants (i.e., his hands all over his wife's money). And even though we don't ever particularly doubt that Tony won't actually get away with anything—the presence of the stalwart detective Inspector Hubbard assures us of that—it's hard not to root for this rotter of an anti-hero, whose gleeful amorality is almost awesome.

The present production of Dial "M" for Murder comes to us from Theatre By The Blind, which means that there's yet another twist to the proceedings. For this company, which is dedicated to changing the popular image of the blind from one of dependence to independence, includes a number of sight-impaired or blind actors among its ranks (including George Ashiotis, who plays Tony). As in all of their productions, we quickly forget to keep track of which actors are sighted and which are not as we get caught up in the events unfolding on stage. (But when we stop to think about the remarkable concentration required by an actor such as Ashiotis to behave as if he can see the telephone that he's dialing or the glass of port that he's pouring, we necessarily must be impressed.)

Theatre By The Blind has enhanced this production so that it can be enjoyed by blind audience members. This is accomplish through the use of a narrator, who provides occasional, always unobtrusive descriptions of important action ("He picks up the scarf and starts to strangle her"—that sort of thing.) It's a great concept, expanding the play's audience without in any way impinging on the experience of those who don't require the narration. In some places, the simultaneous depiction and description of the same action even seemed to enhance the excitement.”-- Martin Denton,