Dial M for Murder
The Jungle returns to an early favorite, bringing the venerable stage thriller back for a third go. It's an oddly lifeless affair, with the actors seemingly sleepwalking their way through the proceedings, apparently content just to explain the twists and turns of Frederick Knott's play. The action centers on the plans for a perfect murder by ex-tennis-champ Tony, who wants to off his heiress wife after he discovers she's been having an affair with an American mystery writer. He enlists a down-on-his-heels college alum to do the deed—and then things go horribly awry. Bain Boehlke's directing brings out a bit of suspense along the way, especially in tense moments that happen outside of our vision (there's a lot of business with latchkeys, especially near the end of the play). Apart from the plot—and believe me, there's a lot of it—there isn't much to follow. Tony is the most intriguing character here, but Michael Booth doesn't let us see if he's enjoying anything. It's all grim determination, whether he is convincing a virtual stranger to commit murder or spinning a fresh story out of the plot gone wrong. As heiress Margot, Cheryl Willis seems uncomfortable and unsure long before her character gets ensnared and then wrongly accused of murder. Some of this goes back to Knott's script, which treats everyone here as plot delivery machines, but the company does it no favors, making what should be thrilling a chore.
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