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Theatre Review: Dial "M" for Murder

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, March 16, 2012
"Dial M for Murder" comes from a bygone era - the early Fifties, when many movies were in filmed in black and white, with stories that developed at a leisurely pace compared with today's frantic standards.
This play opens in a tony London residence, with characters dressed formally for the theater, enjoying cocktails and cigarettes. The central character is a retired tennis star, married to an admirer who is comfortably well off -- and he very much appreciates the lifestyle.
"You'll find it make such a difference to have some money in the family."
But beneath the glittering facade, the wife is having an affair. Her husband has figured this out, and is plotting to have her murdered. And he'll inherit her wealth.
"Investments, mostly, a little too easy to get out. And that was dangerous, as they'd be bound to suspect me. I'd need an alibi. A very good one. Then I saw you."
The enjoyment, in this Sacramento Theater Company production, comes from Matt K. Miller's charmingly wicked performance as the tennis star. With an icy twinkle in his eyes, he carefully plans his wife's demise, detail by intricate detail - smiling, but diabolically serious.Then, as the plan goes awry, it turns into a battle of wits, as an inspector -- played with droll humor by the resourceful Gary Wright -- begins to figure things out.
As I said, this show doesn't hurry. There's a gradual set-up, as we're introduced to the characters and their circumstances, followed by the heated moment of the crime itself, and then the aftermath -- three acts, two intermissions. And this production is not entirely successful -- several supporting performances are flat and two-dimensional. But director Greg Alexander creates a sense of growing momentum that pays off in the end. Those who enjoy an old-school thriller, set in an era of rotary phones and wooden tennis rackets, will relish this evening of retro entertainment.
Dial "M" for Murder continues at the Sacramento Theatre Company through March 25th.
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