The final production for the Indiana Repertory Theatre in the 2016-17 season is the suspense play Dial “M” for Murder by Federick Knott. The film adaptation in 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock may be familiar to audiences, and the IRT’s staging of the play reflects some of the film version. However, the fresh-faced and energetic cast brings the story alive as only live theater can.
The convoluted plot involves a former pro tennis star who marries for money, Tony Wendice (Matt Mueller). However, he secretly discovers his wife Margot (Sarah Ruggles) is having an affair with Max Halliday (Christopher Allen), who is a crime writer for American television. She mentions to Max that a love letter was stolen from her handbag, and later she was blackmailed under odd circumstances, while he is visiting. When the husband arrives home, he feigns friendliness to the American, but knows they were involved. He waits for them to leave before calling an old school chum Captain Lesgate (really Swann), played by Steve Wojtas, and blackmails him into killing Margot. However, on the night of the murder, Margot kills Lesgate in self-defense, and a cascade of lies and deception begins. Observant and quick-thinking Detective Inspector Hubbard (Robert Neal) puzzles out the real culprit in the end, but not without horrible consequences for all involved.
Knott’s play is a deliciously old fashioned “talker” suspense, with over-confident characters monologuing their cleverness to those they perceive their lessers. Several actors make their debuts on the IRT stage in this production, including Ruggles, Mueller, David Mosedale as O’Brien, and Wojtas, and do a bang-up job alongside IRT veterans like Neal, and returning talent like Allen. James Still directs the cast in a snappy manner, getting the most out a very gifted ensemble. A gorgeous set by Kate Sutton-Johnson. plus 1950s costuming by Tracy Dorman give the audience a sense of place and time.
The end of the 2016-17 season at the IRT comes on a high note. Many in the audience noted the end of a terrific run of plays that pushed the boundaries for the IRT and challenged audiences with great performances. In addition, the announcement of the upcoming season promises even more opportunities for great theater in Indianapolis
Dial “M” for Murder runs through May 21 and is likely to sell out quickly. Get tickets online at irtlive.com or call 317-635-5252 for rates and times.
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