As I put pen to paper, I wonder where did June go and how did it become mid-July? Suddenly, we are in the closing week of Frederick Knott’s thriller “Dial M for Murder” and will soon be opening the third show of the Players season.
While enjoying a company lunch break I found myself next to Joe Foust who directed “Dial M for Murder.” Joe was on a break from rehearsals of “Lend Me A Tenor.” While chatting, Joe commented how the Players relaxed environment was the ideal setting for Knott’s classic murder. And the following conversation began with me asking, “How so?”
“The timeless ambiance of the Players, the iconic Door County feel, it is the perfect setting for this suspense-filled classic,” Joe said. “This thriller is set in 1950s London and in the same stylish and sexy world as ‘Mad Men;’ a gentler paced world, with no cell phones or internet. A world in which the main characters enjoy conversations and cocktails, something I see patrons at the Players enjoying pre-show in the beer garden.”
Q. Would you call it a mystery?
A. “Dial M for Murder” is not a whodunit. It is a ‘Will they get away with it?’ A man plans the perfect murder, but the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. One murder replaces another and now who is to blame?
Q. You’ve directed “Deathtrap” and “Noises Off” for Peninsula Players, one a mystery the other a fast paced comedy. What new challenges were there in this production?
A. This production has an elegance and ease of style that takes intelligent and skilled actors to pull off. It’s a teaser for the brain and does so with a light touch. ‘Noises Off’ was hard, physical work. A lot of time was spent making sure no one got hurt.
Q. Is one more challenging than the other to direct?
A. I don’t think it’s so much comedy/mystery difference that makes the directing more or less challenging, but the number of bodies, physical action and heavy design factors certainly make a difference
Q. What impressions does Knott’s works leave upon you?
A. (He) often puts women in terrible dilemmas and wits and brain must save the day.
Knott’s “Wait Until Dark” also featured a damsel in distress, a recently blinded woman who finds herself stalked by drug runners. Both of Knott’s plays “Wait Until Dark” and “Dial M for Murder” were made into movies.
After serving in the British Army during World War II, Knott retreated to a cottage near his parent’s home in Sussex to write. He worked for 18 months with his mother delivering him his meals by the door. The end result was “Dial M for Murder.”
It was a struggle to find a producer until the BBC offered to use it as a 90- minute television play in 1952. It got rave reviews so Knott sold the film rights to a London movie company. After which, a London stage producer found himself with an empty theater and asked to produce “Dial M for Murder.” With less than three weeks of rehearsal it opened to critical acclaim.
It also opened on Broadway in 1952 and ran for 552 performances at the Plymouth Theater. Since then the thriller has been produced in more than 30 countries and adapted several times. But, unlike Agatha Christie, Knott was not a prolific writer and he only wrote a few plays.
There is still time to catch the taut thriller “Dial M for Murder.” For ticket information, to see a preview video or to read reviews visit www.peninsulaplayers.com. You can catch Joe and the rest of the cast in the hysterically funny, door-slamming comedy “Lend Me A Tenor” starting July 29 through August 16. Phone the Box Office at 920-868-3287 for more information on the rest of our season, pre-show seminars or backstage tours. I look forward to seeing you by the bay this season, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!