Review: Northlight Theatre Brings Thrilling Murder Mystery to the Holiday Season with Dial M for Murder
Money, fear, jealousy, revenge, and protecting someone you love.
These are the five top motives for murder, according to Maxine Hadley (Elizabeth Laidlaw), a murder mystery writer who is about to have her first big break. She and old friend, Margot Wendice (Lucy Carapetyan), discuss these motives at the top of the show as if they were everyday conversation. For them, they likely are. Murder is romanticized in stories, nothing more. However, we are about to find that with the right motive, a switch can flip—inviting even the most unsuspecting individual to make a decision from which they could never again walk away.
Wendice (Ryan Hallahan), a writer and publicist who married his wife, Margot, for her family’s money. Upon discovering that she is having an affair, he sets out on the perfect way to have her murdered and keep her wealth. The result is a thrilling murder mystery that just might keep you on the edge of your seat—nervous to see what might happen next.
Directed by Georgette Verdin, Dial M for Murder is fast-paced and thrilling. The play, inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock film, was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the original play by Frederick Knott. The story certainly kept me guessing and constantly questioning my expectations. The artistic team heightens the suspenseful, noir aesthetic—particularly through lighting designer Eric Watkins’ use of silhouettes.
At the end of the first scene, Margot and Maxine have just left for the theater, leaving Tony alone in the living room. As he sips his drink, the lights go down, and his shadow is cast towards the back of the stage. Original music and sound designer Christopher Kriz fills the theater with eerie, spooky music, and the open layout of set designer Mara Ishihara Zinky’s gorgeous stage allows the shadow to grow and loom over the audience. We may not yet know that he is considering murder; however, the artistic team appropriately sets up the audience with the sense that the story is about to become significantly darker, and relationships may not quite be what they seem.
Murder mysteries can often become a bit predictable; however, this production, in my opinion, hardly falls into that category. Rarely have I been in the middle of an audience gasping at every twist and turn, making it clear that this opening night crowd was invested from beginning to end.
Suspenseful and fun with a stand-out team of artists, Dial M for Murder is a roller coaster from start to finish. Chicago is filled with a range of holiday classics this time of year. If you are looking for a little spice to change things up this time of year, this murder mystery is for you.
Northlight Theatre’s Dial M for Murder runs through January 7 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard. Tickets run $20-$84 for Wednesday-Sunday performances. Run time is 2 hours, including intermission.
For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.
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