Arts and Entertainment

Happy (early) Valentines Day from BCT

Aghast, Tony Wendice (played at BCT by Adrian DeGroot) comes across a dead body in his London flat, however not the dead body he was expecting to find. - Photo courtesy of Susan Ewbank
Aghast, Tony Wendice (played at BCT by Adrian DeGroot) comes across a dead body in his London flat, however not the dead body he was expecting to find.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Susan Ewbank

By BILL MICKELSON

What’s Up

Bremerton Community Theatre is ushering in Valentine’s Day with the tale of a husband who is plotting to kill his wife.

In wonderfully contradictory fashion, a seasoned BCT cast and crew, under the direction of Changing Scene Theatre Northwest guru Pavlina Morris, debuted “Dial M for Murder,” Friday, 599 Lebo Blvd. in Bremerton. It’s a show written by English playwright Frederick Knott that debuted on the BBC before hitting the stage in London, but it’s likely most widely known for it’s 1950’s Hitchcockian film version starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland.

“Dial M” would seem quite a leap for Morris, whose last directing role at BCT was fall 2006’s “Noises Off!” a comical British play-within-a-play farce. Now just more than a year later, she’s directing a straight-faced, murder-within-a-play suspense thriller.

But it’s actually a rather comfortable fit as Morris is a big fan of both Alfred Hitchcock and theatrical murder.

Last year, she directed the murderous farce “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” at CSTOCK, and as for Hitchcock, his version of “Dial M” ranks in her top-five favorite movies of all time from the influential director.

At the top of that list is 1948’s “Rope.”

“I’ve always been a tremendous Hitchcock fan,” Morris said. “I was just really intrigued with how brilliantly this one (‘Dial M’) transfers to the stage.”

Often times when plays are more well-known for their film version, it’s difficult to see past the cinematic qualities in order to make it work on stage. But that hasn’t been the case with this show, Morris said.

Akin to the movie “Rope,” the entire story of “Dial M” is played out in a single setting, a married couple’s London flat, home to Margot and Tony Wendice (played by Paula Matthew and Adrian DeGroot respectively).

Tony is a former tennis player who has given up the sport to marry Margot, a well-off gal who was formerly involved with an American TV crime writer named Mark Halliday (played by BCT newbie Steve Reddy).

Margot and Mark broke things off and eventually lost contact when the writer moved to the U.S. But jealousy dies hard for Tony, who had happened upon an old love letter from Mark to Margot. After finding the letter he anonymously holds it ransom and is supremely discouraged when Margot pays to retrieve it. That bone is picked even further when he sees the chemistry that still exists between his wife and her former lover.

So he goes to work on a meticulous plot to kill her.

“The thing that’s really fascinating about this piece is it gets the audience involved right away and lets them know that this is the bad guy,” Morris said. “This is not a ‘whodunit,’ ... we already know whodunit.”

In fact, the audience will know ‘whodunit’ before he actually does it.

For a year, Tony plans Margot’s murder, collecting a sum of 1,000 pounds which he uses to employ a contract killer, an old schoolmate of his, who goes by the name Captain Lesgate (Darren Hembd).

Tony has schemed a plan where Margot will be home alone, Lesgate will creep into the house after 11 p.m., hide out and wait for a phone call to beckon her into the front room of the apartment. Then when she answers the phone, Lesgate will leap out and strangle her to death, signaling to Tony (who will be on the other end of the line) when the deed is done.

“Sets everything up just flawlessly to have this happen,” Morris said.

But even the best crafted plans fall victim to spontaneity.

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