Categories: Kristen Schweizer, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Dial M for Murder. A Killer Adaptation at the Old Globe

Article by Kristen Schweizer

August 6, 2022

Nathan Darrow as Tony Wendice and Kate Abbruzzese as Margot Wendice in Dial M for Murder. Photo by Jim Cox.

    Dial M for Murder gets an A+ for adaptation – and kudos to The Old Globe for mounting this hot summer thriller. While theaters can count on name recognition to sell tickets, it can be a double-edged sword as audiences often expect a replica of the film or novel. (Just ask the writers of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.) Thankfully, this update of the original 1952 stage show has all the best aspects of the famous 1954 Hitchcock film – gorgeous pacing, gorgeous dialogue, and a gorgeous blonde – with the heightened stakes of live theater.

(from left) Ruibo Qian as Maxine Hadley, Nathan Darrow as Tony Wendice, and Kate Abbruzzese as Margot Wendice in Dial M for Murder. Photo by Jim Cox.

    Jeffrey Hatcher is an ideal adapter of this how-dunnit thriller as he is both a playwright and screenwriter. The story revolves around a plan to murder and the confounding results. That is almost all I can give away as the fun is in the finding-out. Hatcher’s modern amendments to Frederick Knott’s original, murderous play-turned-movie-turned-play include a same-sex affair, yet he sets it realistically in the time period. Hatcher’s discourse dances on the tightrope between tension and relief without losing sight of the grounding, realistic reasons for a person to commit murder. What’s more, he does it all with wry humor that feels British while still appealing to an American audience.

The excitement was amplified during my Wednesday night viewing. Associate Producer Kim Montelibano Heil opened the show by announcing Eric Hagen (a 2019 graduate of the University of San Diego’s MFA acting program) would take the stage – script in hand – in the role of Lesgate, usually played by Ruy Iskandar. The audience perked up, united in anticipation to witness this last-minute replacement. In arena staging, we all watched each other watch the talented young actor. Hagen may have played a thug, yet he was the evening’s hero, hardly scanning the pages while maintaining the delicate balance of sordid suspense and teasing wit that hallmarks this production. Bravo.

Additional applause to costume designer Ryan Park. Park’s choice of touchable textiles and impeccable tailoring amplified the story’s sensuality. His socialite wardrobe for Margot Wendice (played by Kate Abbruzzese) was superb in color and fit whether she was dressed in an ostentatious evening gown or an innocent, china blue prison frock. The devil is in the details, and every stitch was heavenly.

Kate Abbruzzese as Margot Wendice in Dial M for Murder. Photo by Jim Cox.

A killer – and a killer production – must master the minutia. From the neon floor lights which glowed to intensify the scene transitions to a sinfully sweet sound design (Tony Award winner Leon Rothenberg), Dial M for Murder’s director (Stafford Arima) and his creative team left nothing to chance. Audiences are guaranteed a hell of a show.

Snatch up your ticket quickly because, while Dial M for Murder has been extended another week, many performances are already sold out. Check out www.theoldglobe.org for more.

Dial M for Murder plays in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre (1363 Old Globe Way). Performances run July 21 through August 28, 2022. Regular tickets start at $30; guests ages 18-29 are eligible for $29 tickets via the Under 30 Discount program or check out special discounts for youth via the Tix4Teeens program. The play runtime is approximately two hours and ten minutes with one intermission.


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