Events start to go to hell in a handbasket for Margot (Emily Dussault) and Tony (Peter Christian Hansen) in Gremlin Theatre’s production of Dial M for Murder. Photo by Alyssa Kristine Photography.
1950s television has a certain romance for theatre fans. It was then and there that Neil Simon refined his craft, where Amahl and the Night Visitors had its world premiere, and indeed where Frederick Knott’s play Dial M for Murder was first unveiled to the world. Yes, you read that right – years before Alfred Hitchcock filmed his classic screen adaptation, Dial M for Murder made its debut to the world as a play written for a 1952 BBC broadcast. We…really don’t do that much these days.
The present production of Dial M for Murder at Gremlin Theatre emphasizes tension and characterization over spectacle. The set by Carl Shoenborn is minimal but adequate, its lighting (also by Shoenborn) and sound (byInna Skogerboe) taut and adding much to the atmosphere. Director Brian Columbus clearly spent much time on mood and building emotional currency with the cast; however, it’s similarly clear that little time was spent on the accents, which are…distracting.
Pronunciation aside, there’s much to like about the onstage quintet. Emily Dussault’s Margot is riveting to watch, and Peter Christian Hansen’s portrayal of the two-timing Tony is deliciously fun. Grant Henderson’s would-be hitman is interestingly conflicted, and Alan Sorenson plays his silver screen-style detective to a T. Dan Hopman rounds out the cast with a charismatic performance.
Gremlin’s Dial M for Murder is essentially a thriller murder mystery romp, played with the seriousness needed to make its humor shine through. After seeing it, you kind of wish that there were still plays like this being written for the stage and the TV screen.
Dial M for Murder plays through September 30 at Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul, MN.
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