By John Baggett
As the 70th season at Tyler Civic Theatre continues, they are bringing a lot of suspense and classic British charm to the stage with their production of the classic thriller “Dial M for Murder.”
The story follows former tennis pro, Tony (Dereck Large), and his wife, Margot (Nadalie Gill). The play opens with Margot reconnecting with her friend, Max (Gordon Holmes), a TV writer. The pair once had an affair, but they called their romance off and Margot fell back in love with her husband. Tony gave up his profession and became the most devoted, loving husband. However, someone found out about their relationship, having stolen the one letter Margot kept from her time with Max, and sent her a ransom note to get it back. Despite paying the money, she never received her letter in return.
That’s because her blackmailer is Tony. After he sends Max and Margot off to a play that they were all to attend, Tony begins putting his plan into motion. He calls upon a man named Lesgate (Austin Sandy), under the pretense of buying a car from him. Lesgate also happens to be a former classmate of Tony’s, one that has been changing his name to avoid debts from previous landlords. Tony explains his plan to Lesgate, offering him a life-changing sum of money to kill Margo while he and Max attend a party to establish an alibi. Unfortunately for both Tony and Lesgate, the perfect murder doesn’t happen quite so perfectly.
“Dial M For Murder” was written by Frederick Knott, who would later turn the stage work into a screenplay for the 1954 Aflred Hitchcock film. He also penned the stage thriller, “Wait Until Dark,” which was also later turned into a film.
The TCT production is directed by Sarah Pharr in her directorial debut after previously working behind the scenes for many shows including “The Lucky O’Learys,” “Rock of Ages,” and most recently, “Singin’ in the Rain.” Pharr should be absolutely proud of this production because she assembled a cast and crew that delivers a performance that would impress Hitch himself.
As Tony, Large is deliciously diabolical. He is not a mustache-twirling villain, nor is he cold. He is warm, charming, and uses every setback the character faces to his advantage. You’d want to be friends with this Tony, if he wasn’t trying to have his wife killed. Gill, making her return to the Civic stage, is delightful as Margot. She is rather flawless in her performance and is genuinely fun to watch. Holmes, fresh from treading the board in “Singin’ in the Rain,” is very natural in his role, giving an almost effortless performance as the true hero of the piece, even if this hero has a dark past.
Sandy is terrific as Lesgate, and all of his aliases, and truly shines when he is on stage. As Inspector Hubbard, Stephen Siers is wonderful. Being a stage veteran, he has a natural charm, and I hope to see him in more shows at TCT because he is great. Rounding out the cast are Emmy Anderson, Madysen Criss, and Mason Criss, all of whom play multiple roles and they play them all very well.
Under Pharr’s direction, “Dial M for Murder” captures the feel of a classic British mystery, one that has a charm and almost sly grin to it. It’s easy to see why Hitchcock turned this into a movie. With a relatively young cast eager to hone their craft, the show feels timeless and ageless. For those in the mood for thrills and chills, anyone that enjoys a good thriller, and if you enjoy all things British (especially BBC dramas), “Dial M for Murder” is a show that you absolutely should not miss.
“Dial M for Murder” opened on Friday, October 5th, and runs through Sunday, October 14th at Tyler Civic Theatre, located at 400 Rose Park Drive. For more information and tickets call (903) 592-0561 or go to http://tylercivictheatre.com/production/2018-2019/dial-m-for-murder