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September 21, 2010 > Theatre Review: The Best Laid Plans...

Theatre Review: The Best Laid Plans...

By Vidya Pradhan

Say Dial M for Murder and, for a certain generation of viewers, images that instantly leap to mind will be those of the 1954 Hitchcock classic, starring the lovely Grace Kelly as a wealthy socialite and the urbane Ray Milland as her scheming husband.

Fremont theater group Broadway West bravely takes on the challenge of performing a play that is not only indelibly etched in the minds of film noir fans, but one that is a murder mystery whose denouement is well known to most audiences around the world.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, the thriller deals with Margot Wendice, whose husband Tony is dependent on her financially. When an old lover reappears on the scene, Tony is desperate enough to plan his wife's murder to protect his privileged life. Despite Tony's meticulous planning, the elaborate scheme unravels unpredictably, and he has to think quickly to keep the game going.

Director Angie Higgins, who is a regular in Broadway West's cast of players, chooses to create a distinction between the famous movie and her own production by cleverly changing the characterization of the leads. Where Grace Kelly played Margot as a vulnerable innocent, whose implication in the murder of a blackmailer is almost incredible, Lucy Littlewood as Margot has a streak of hardness in her, which makes her guilt a touch more convincing. Jeff Clarke's Tony is on the other end of the spectrum from Ray Milland's portrayal of the character. Milland is a sophisticated Tony, with a streak of cruelty in him that brings the shivers, but Clarke's Tony is an exaggerated fop, mincing and prancing his way around stage, delivering laughs when he should be making the audience hate him.

It is a rather strange interpretation, but it certainly works to differentiate this production from the movie. And the audience at opening night loved every moment of it.

Credit also goes to the phenomenal set design. In a nod to the black and white movie and the film noir genre, designer Mike Price creates a set entirely in shades of black, white and grey, and costume designer Leslie Newport matches the character's costumes to the set. It is a lovely touch and serves to elevate the local production by several degrees.

Can fans of the movie enjoy this play? Absolutely. I knew exactly what would happen when the would-be murderer appeared from behind the French door curtains to strangle Margot, but still could not prevent a squeak of alarm. And the come-uppance of the bad guy is doubly satisfying now that we know that it all ends well.

Dial M for Murder, originally a stage play by Englishman Frederick Knott, was ranked the 9th best film in the mystery genre by the American Film Institute in 2008. It lives up to that ranking in every avatar, be it as a sinister Hitchcock classic or the local production at our very own Broadway West.

Dial M for Murder
September 17 - October 16, 2010
Broadway West Theater Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont

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