Murderous crime starts Triad Stage’s new season
Say the name Alfred Hitchcock and the term psychological thriller isn’t far from the brain. His dark direction of film not only plays with our minds but forces us to delve into a psy- chotic world of murder and confusion. Acting as our Hitchcock of the Triad, Triad Stage Creative Director Preston Lane brings home Frederick Knott’s diabolical play Dial ‘M’ for Murder and submerges his audience into a sinister world of perplexities and suspense. In the end, the audience comes out with a mystery solved, but with questions still on the tongue.
Dial ‘M’ for Murder, originally telecast on BBC TV in 1952, is a play not just about murder, but about character flaws, moral complexities, right and wrong. The play is set in the 1950s London living room of husband and wife Tony and Margot Wendice. Tony, privy to Margot’s infidelity and desperate for an inherited wealth, devises the perfect plot to kill his wife. But once the plan is knocked off course, Tony has to think quick to stay ahead of the detective and mystery writer determined to solve the crime. The Triad Stage cast is a refreshing set of faces, most of which make their Triad Stage debut. Bjorn Thorstad (Tony Wendice) exudes an aura of confidence and a sort of sly cockiness as a husband determined to get away with murder. The audience watches Tony struggle to stay afloat in a sea of lies and is angry at every successful improvisation. Contrary to most thriller villains, Thorstad’s demeanor is far from gri- macing, and in fact, holds a slight boyish charm. Although the audience wants to hate Tony — and most probably will — at times they are also forced to try to understand him and question his motives. Fletcher McTaggart’s sleepy bedroom eyes make it easy for the women of the audience to see why Margot, Tony’s wife, has fallen for his character Max Halliday, a dashing writer from New York. He retains all the style, smoothness and charm of Dick Tracy as he works to unravel the murder mystery to save the woman he loves. In the end, his suaveness turns to desperation as the clock is ticking.
McTaggart also gives a magnificent and much-needed comic relief as a droopy-eyed drunk.
Letitia Lange (Margot Wendice) plays a wife and victim stiff with bewilderment. Lange creates a multi-dimensional character of a dependent woman who longs to be both a devoted wife and racy lover.
Lange’s best, heart-rendering performance is after Margot is attacked and we see her in her rawest, most emotionally-instable form. Andrew Boyer (Inspector Hubbard) is magnificent in both physical stance and voice as a top-notch police detective who has learned a few tricks in the business. Boyer keeps the audience guessing about the inspector’s motives, and in the end the audience finds themselves root- ing for the detective, whether or not his actions are legal. To add to the characters’ vulnerability, scenic designer Anya Klepikov, who last season fashioned the set for Triad Stage’s The Glass
Menagerie, creates a set reminiscent of Hitchcock’s notorious “gazing” camera angle, creating a view which makes the audience feel as though they are peeping Toms.
Surrounding the stage is a ledge, which both creates the illusion of the apartment walls as well as separates the audience from the charac ters. The audience, feeling uninvited, is caused a bit of discomfort as they guiltily hover over the characters and their secret lives. A bed enclosed by a low glass wall creates a second room onset, so the audience can see the happenings in two rooms at once without the characters ever having to leave the stage. This effect also allows the audience to peer into what is usually a very private setting and is able to spy on Margot’s bare emotions after she is attacked. The audi- ence almost feels guilty as they watch the distraught wife’s insecurities unfold. A projector screen in the background, mastered by projections design- er Bill McCord, not only completes the back wall of the living room, but aids in reflecting the mood or thoughts of the moment, especially when murder is on the husband’s brain. The projections also expand the set and allow the audience’s all- seeing eye to see the other side of phone conversations. Of course, with any thriller, the music and sound effects are what raise the audience’s neck hairs, and Composer and Sound Designer David E. Smith’s work was no exception.
Dial ‘M’ for Murder plays at Triad Stage’s Pyrle Theatre, 232 S. Elm St., now through Sept. 25. Tickets are $10-$44. For tickets or more information visit www.triadstage.org or call 336.272.0160.