Bag&Baggage gets away with bringing ‘Dial M for Murder’ to stage in a crisp, precise performance (review)
The fact that Hitchcock picked the British murder mystery and made it one of his most popular movies is an indication of just how high a bar was set for future productions.
Bag&Baggage Productions clears it with room to spare.
Most cops contend there is no such thing as a perfect crime, which is one of the reasons “Dial M for Murder” has become a classic. The difference between most murder stories and “Dial M” is that the audience already knows who did it and why. What we don’t know is if he’ll get away with it.
Bag&Baggage regular Cassie Greer plays Margot Wendice, the wealthy wife of Tony, a washed-up tennis pro played by Andrew Beck. The problem in their relationship is that Margot really loves Max Halliday, an American crime writer played by Luke Armstrong. And what Tony really loves is his wife’s money.
Nothing good can come from a cheating wife, a greedy husband, and a writer who lives with murders on the mind.
It’s all set in motion when Tony contacts Captain Lesgate, a former classmate, played by Dennis Kelly, and blackmails and bribes him into committing what could be the perfect crime.
Greer flows seamlessly between the persona of the proper British wife and the sultry mistress, bound to her husband yet passionately involved with her American lover. Beck has no character transition: He is always the despicable, self-centered, selfish, scheming spouse you love to hate. Armstrong’s Halliday is simply smitten by the lovely, leggy Margot and will concoct almost any scenario in his creative mind to save her from the noose.
The most likeable character on the stage is Inspector Hubbard, played by Judson Williams, who comes across as a rare commodity in live theater … a cop who actually thinks like a cop.
The company’s artistic director Scott Palmer sat this one out and gave the reins to Brandon Woolley, a regular director and performer at Portland Center Stage. The small cast, Woolley’s crisp direction, a creative set and a compelling story meld into a performance that is over all too soon and is a welcome change from the formula crime fare on television today.
The only thing missing is a cameo by Hitchcock.
The classic who-done-it is on stage at the Venetian Theater, 253 E. Main St., in Hillsboro through Nov. 2. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday matinee.