Dial M for Murder at the Alley Theatre

A Witty Thriller

By: - Jun 11, 2024

Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, in association with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, is presenting Dial M for Murder as a warmup to their annual Summer Chills programming.  Based on the original play by Frederick Knott that inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, the current version has been updated by Jeffrey Hatcher.

Not as conventional as the original Knott, and not as creepy as Hitchcock, the play bounces along with terrific performances by the resident acting company, including Todd Waite and Dylan Godwin. 

The marriage of convenience between Tony (Brandon Hearnsberger)  and Margot (Teresa Zimmerman) is now challenged by Margot’s female lover, Maxine, a writer of mystery thrillers (Geena Quintos). There’s a big kiss between the ladies, but not much eroticism.  Money is central to the matter of murder.  It heads the list Margot offers as a prompt for murder, more important than revenge or jealousy. Tony is very frank with the man he has hired to murder his wife:  I married for money.  Maxine is threatening his cash flow. 

Dial M for Murder is a play again, and a terrific one at that.  Yet elements of film have been smoothly integrated:  musical accents accompany the dialogue.  A huge red sign flashing MURDER reminds the audience of the Bates Motel from another Hitchcock film. 

Physical performance adds another dimension to flashy dialogue ever on the move. Our eyes get caught up in silk stockings, scarves and raincoats. A thunderstorm turns the stage into black and white bolts of light and threatening booms. 

If you think too much about the plot elements, they may seem a bit of a stretch. The play is still set in 1952 which helps explain why a husband’s awareness of his wife’s lesbian affair, memorialized in a love letter, might be a cause for blackmail. 

The play makes fun of itself.  Maxine says at one point, as the trio prepares for an evening at the theater, “The play we’re going to see is a murder mystery and it’s supposed to be dreadful. We’ll have such a good time.”  The Inspector suggests that lurid print stories have led people to line up outside Tony and Margot’s home like it was Madame Tussaud’s.

You don’t worry about improbabilities. Everything on stage is on the move with wit and humor.  You’re thinking ‘aha’ and laughing, caught up in Tatiana Pandiani’s direction. 

The audience at Alley Theatre keeps coming back because they know they can count on Alley to produce engaging productions.  Summer Chills is up next.


Tickets for  Dial M for Murder playing through June 30. Tickets here.