The Best Laid Schemes

Tony Wendice has plotted the perfect murder.  His meticulous plan will allow him to gain revenge on his wife for cuckolding him and continue to live off her wealth with nothing to connect him to her death.  But he is about to learn that the best laid schemes gang aft agley.  This is Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott and is currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

I was actually very disappointed by Knott’s script.  The general idea is a massive winner, but the construction of his script actually dilutes the idea.  Knott takes way too long to get where he’s going as the first act is nothing but exposition to set up the story and the murder.  Things heat up nicely in the second act with the actual commission of the crime and the fallout thereof, but the third act takes a nose dive with a somewhat unsatisfying denouement as Knott couldn’t decide whether to let the police inspector or the talented amateur have the credit for unraveling the case.

Todd Uhrmacher’s direction does an admirable job of getting the most out of the script.  He emphasizes the script’s strengths and buoys up its shortcomings, especially in the uber talky first act as his actors were constantly animated which helped maintain interest through the heaps of dialogue.  He has some delightfully tense moments in the second act, but I thought there was room for the tension to be ratcheted up a bit more at key points.  The show is nicely staged and Joey Lorincz’s beautiful luxury apartment lends itself well to creepy moments with its numerous hiding places.

Laureen Pickle is very credible as Margot Wendice.  Her Margot is a good person who made a poor choice when she had her affair, though the script implies she was driven to it by her husband’s callous behavior.  Her regret and penitence are genuine and her near catatonia in the third act is spot on.  I do think she had the space to be a bit more hysterical in the immediate aftermath of the murder scene.

Jonathan Berger has set a very solid foundation in his interpretation of Tony Wendice.  He brings a real intelligence to the character and oozes a slimy charm.  I also admired his pantomime as he tampered with the scene of the crime.  Now he just needs to take what he’s doing and amplify it by a few degrees.  He seemed a little too controlled and there was a great deal of fun for him to have with his reactions and fast thinking when Wendice’s plan begins to go off the rails.

Gene Hinkle is clever as Max Halliday.  Hinkle brings a real decency to the TV writer who also regrets the affair with Margot and wants to confess it to Tony so they can have a clean slate.  I also liked his facility for deduction as he begins to piece together the truth of the sordid affair, though I would’ve liked to see him really dig the needle into Tony in the third act as his pointed questions show that he nearly has the puzzle sussed out. 

I think I caught the show on an off night as it felt more like a rehearsal.  Energy was down.  Cue pickups were lax.  Volume was too soft at a few moments. There were some line struggles and there was stiff acting at certain points.  The murder scene also needed a massive dose of intensity to help its believability.  The foundation of the show is assuredly there, it just needed more oomph.

Along with his always superb sets, Joey Lorincz’s lighting was a tremendous asset to this show, especially the use of darkness and shadow during the show’s most intense moments.  Todd Uhrmacher has also well costumed his performers from the elegant suits of the two leading men to the pretty dresses of Pickle’s Margot.

The story is a bit meh, but Uhrmacher’s capable direction combined with some more juice from the performers can make the show a perfectly adequate thriller.

Dial M for Murder plays at the Bellevue Little Theatre through Mar 21.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $20 ($18 for seniors, $10 for students) and reservations can be made at http://bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com/reservations.html.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

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