Jungle, Boehlke, dial 'M' once again

​Bain Boehlke's first encounter with Dial M For Murder is more than a half century in the past. As a youth in Farmington, the young impresario had his own summer theater. One summer, he brought Frederick Knott's then-new thriller to the stage.

This weekend, Boehlke once again helms the show, opening the third production of it he has presented at the Jungle Theater.

According to Boehlke, having a repertoire of classic plays to mount and remount is important to the Jungle's overall mission.

"I have this personal mission that theater is not only plays that are written today, but that they are like a time machine," he says. "We can bring forth incredibly written plays that are valuable and significant. Their appeal is timeless."

Dial M For Murder was a sensation when it first played in the theater and soon after became a hit film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The story centers on a plot to murder an heiress for her money, and the ways this "perfect" crime goes awry. 

Though the play is 60 years old, Boehlke doesn't see it as a dusty relic from the past. "When I do these plays, I treat them as new plays," he says. "It's so fantastic when you see Shakespeare or Chekhov or Dial M For Murder brought to life in the most human of fashions. All of the elements speak to the life of the play and the characters. It makes you swoon."

Jungle, Boehlke, dial 'M' once again
Photo by Drew Trampe

The company includes one actor, Terry Hempleman, who was in the last production. It also features Cheryl Willis, Michael Booth, Peter Moore, and Gary Briggle.

Boehlke has plenty of reasons to hold the play in high esteem. "It's written so beautifully. Every single utterance is connected to the spine of the work."

As he has become more experienced, Boehlke has found that dealing with the surface of the play is as important as looking at what is going on underneath. The set, based on the one used for the last production, brings the London home to life, loaded with details that make it feel like a real residence. He extends this thinking throughout. The characters won't all be wearing typical '50s clothes, as real people in that era could easily still own suits from a decade or more in the past, Boehlke says.

"I like to see all of the nuances present in a performance. It's not about shouting and theatrical drama. It's not passion when you are just talking loud. You have to see into the human heart," he says.

How does this work? "The primary action mechanism of the human being is speech. We spend our lives talking about how we feel, what we would like do, and orchestrating activities. We work hard in my rehearsals, working on the vernacular and the idiomatic nature of utterances. Many people like to make up how their character talks. I prefer to observe humans in action and learn the melodies of their speech, and emphasize structures that give language a specific meaning.

"I like the world of the play," he adds. "Characters need their world. People do not live outside the aquarium of their existence. There is so much to their lives within the walls they have constructed."


Dial M For Murder
Friday through March 18
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online

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