Reviewed by Stephen Visser
While we seemingly cannot escape this frigid Michigan weather, we can find solace in the warm (maybe a bit too warm) Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall. Last night, Flint Community Players opened their dramatic-thriller for the season: Dial “M” for Murder. This stage- play was written by Frederick Knott, and most notably adapted for the silver screen under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. It has everything a dramatic thriller could ask for: adultery, murder, blackmail, and an undeniable motive.
Margot Wendice (Samantha Tadajewski) and her villainous snake of a husband, Tony (Philip Kautz), seem to have worked out all the problems of their once troubled marriage. Margot ended her love affair with Max Halliday (Zachery Wood), an American television writer, and she seems to be focused on being an ideal, loving wife.
However, there’s so much that will come to light. And I will not give it away; but I will say that this household may still have their share of problems.
Knott’s clever writing and character development is so thought-out and precise, that it will certainly have you sitting on the edge of your seat. (If his writing doesn’t do it, then the chairs definitely will. They are not so easy on the back). And this beautiful, well-assembled cast and crew have executed his work nearly perfectly. Director Jon R. Coggins should be commended for both his vision and casting.
Philip Kautz is incredible as Tony Wendice. He is charming, calculated, and a real jerk. Kautz has many long speeches; and if executed poorly could have affected the pacing of the show fatally. He handles them seamlessly. Much like this script, Kautz is precise. His portrayal of Wendice is very understated and eerily mild-tempered, which make his psychopathy even more disturbing.
Similarly, Tadajewski’s Margot Wendice was breathtaking. We were truly enamored by this young lady. Not only was she stunningly beautiful, but she brought an incredible depth to the character. There were so many times we witnessed that internal turmoil central to her character. The interactions between her and Max are intimate and beautiful. And those interactions make that struggle so clear. While she is traditional, and believes in making it work with her husband, Max provides her with undeniable electricity that is oxygen for her. Don’t believe me? Watch her eyes.
Speaking of Max, Wood’s Halliday is brilliant. He is the perfect contrast to Kautz’ Wendice. We certainly see the attraction of this guy. He’s wildly charming, funny and sensitive to Margot’s needs. Wood has great timing; and perhaps, this is what makes him come off so believably. You’re going to want to watch out for this talented young man. Let’s hope he becomes a fixture with the Flint Community Players.
We just loved Alex Weiss in the role of Lesgate…. or was it Swann? Either way, we just loved him. Weiss captured the adaptable quality of the con artist flawlessly. When we first meet him, he is charming and funny. However, we quickly see how adaptable he is as he strikes fear into us when he attacks Margot. This fight scene was well executed and really impressive. Kudos to both the actors and directors for this flawless execution.
J.R. Nunley played the role of the Inspector. The role requires a considerable amount of depth because he is responsible for unraveling the mystery. We don’t believe we have ever seen Nunley in a role that we didn’t love. And this time is no different. He is so specific, so calculated. He is organized, and his expressions (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) are always so intentional. Nunley’s Hubbard is three-dimensional and completely authentic. We cannot imagine a better choice for this role.
Todd Clemons and Richard Neff rounded out the cast with a variety of different roles. These parts were necessary, and brilliantly specific. Each character was noticeably different from the last. We loved Neff’s bit with the purse. All we’ll say is “He wears it well”. You’ll have to see the show to find out what we mean.
The lighting design was striking. If anyone has ever seen Scott Auge’s work, this should not come as a surprise. And the lights and sound were quite impressive throughout the night. This well-thought out design really improved the atmosphere, and it also paired nicely with Rick Doll and Bill Mackenzie’s beautiful set. It was truly eye-catching. Diane Boonstra Ray’s set painting really made the difference.
In an attempt to be thorough, there were a few things that were distracting. While Laura Williams Kline’s costume designs were stunning, several of the costumes were very wrinkled at times, and it was the slightest bit distracting. Still, we know how actors are about hanging up their costumes (sigh). We suspect this will be an easy fix. Additionally, the microphone that projected the phone calls (there were many) seemed a little clear for purporting to be on the other line. We would have liked to see those voices be a bit more muffled to corroborate the authenticity of the times. Finally, the placement of the intermission was a bit odd. Act I ran about two hours, and Act 2 was only about twenty minutes. Perhaps we could have found an earlier time to break (Did I mention the chairs?). The audience was left wondering when we would break, as there were no scene breakdowns in the program. This in no way detracts from the production, but is a small distraction worth noting.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our evening at The Flint Community Players. Although the attendance was scarce, it was great to see almost every board member in attendance at last night’s performance. It’s truly wonderful to see an organization so supportive of their productions. And after all, they have much to support. So don’t miss your opportunity! Dial M for Murder continues through March 11th at the Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall. For more info and tickets contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com