Jolly good show, chaps.
by Michael Dresdner
L to R: Jacob Tice, Deya Ozburn, Brent Griffith Photos by DK Photograpy
Just in time for Halloween, Tacoma Little Theatre is presenting the classic, satisfying thriller Dial M for Murder with a very solid, very enjoyable ensemble cast.
I say thriller rather than mystery because you, the audience, get to know everything and see everything as it happens. The suspense comes from the various characters, including the police, trying to figure out what really happened while others are actively trying to hide the truth.
The plot is simple and classic. Charming tennis star Tony (Brent Griffith) married Margot (Deya Ozburn) for her money, and now that he’s discovered she is having an affair with Max (Jacob Tice), he decides to kill her and inherit it. He maneuvers Captain Lesgate (Christopher Rocco), an old acquaintance with a shady past, to agree to do the deed through a combination of bribery and blackmail. Things go awry, but the resourceful Tony redirects things to his advantage. The fly in the ointment is police inspector Hubbard (Robert Geller) who isn’t content to accept the situation at face value.
L to R: Deya Ozburn, Brent Griffith
Directed most capably by pug Bujeaud (yes, that’s lower case p and upper case B, and no, I don’t know why,) Dial M for Murder was a solid, satisfying thriller. With crisp, realistic pacing and clever small room blocking, she even managed to prevent the front end of the play, overburdened as it is with exposition, from being dull or boring, and that’s no mean feat.
There were no poor actors in this production; it was a well-meshed and quite competent ensemble cast. In particular, I found myself rooting for Griffith’s very appealing Tony probably more than I should have, seeing as he is supposed to be a villain. Geller, as the somewhat Columbo-like inspector, also endeared himself, playing the crisp, quintessential British CID man with just the right balance.
There were, let’s say, choices (a nicer word than weaknesses) that I might have imagined a different way. Between scene changes were noticeably long, though the sound designer (Darren Hembd) managed to fill them with very pleasant and appropriate music. The killing scene (yes, there’s a killing – come on, people, the word murder is in the title) was more Capoeira than Terminator; more artistic dance than straight brutality. Captain Lesgate, almost excessively fidgety and on edge, never crossed into menacing, but was rather easily cowed into agreeing to Tony’s scheme.
Perhaps most surprising was the lack of romantic chemistry between illicit lovers Max and Margot. Granted, she’s British, but he’s American. I’d have expected something a lot closer to raw lust. Again, these are all choices, and everyone has his or her taste.
All this played out on a beautiful and perfectly appointed set by Blake York (who is also credited as the fight choreographer) with equally good props by Jeffery Weaver. Costumes by Michele Graves were unobtrusive but fitting. Lighting design by Pavlina Morris really shone (groan!) during the dusky death scene, with cleverly positioned flashes of illumination coming from an open bedroom door.
The final analysis? As the Brits say, “Good show!”
Dial M for Murder
Oct. 24 to Nov. 9, 2014