Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Live Murder

Joyce and I love live theater. She was in all kinds of high schools plays at Akron's Garfield HS, sometimes co-starring with classmate Ray Wise, who went on to murder Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. Joyce was a double major at Wittenberg (theater/English) and was actually headed off to grad school in theater at the Univ. of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1969. But she decided, that summer, just for fun, to take an English course at KSU. Where I was waiting to pounce ...

I was in plays throughout high school, co-wrote a dumb script (Remember the Alamo!) for our Sigma-Theta Follies at Hiram College, and directed more than thirty productions in Aurora, mostly at the middle school, though I did Grease and The Merry Wive of Windsor at the high school.

Throughout our marriage Joyce and I have attended plays all over the place--from Cleveland to Stratford (Ontario) to wherever. Once, down in Appalachia, where Joyce was doing some research, we saw a fine production of The Comedy of Errors, the first time I'd seen the Bard's early play about a twins mix-up.

Anyway ... last night (Friday) we drove up the Hanna Theater in Cleveland to see Dial "M" for Murder, a Great Lakes Theater production (we are season ticket-holders), and we both enjoyed it a lot.

This had not been the case with one of their fall productions--The Merry Wives of Windsor--which the director had decided to "improve" by adding lines and pop-culture references. I hated it; we left at intermission--something we have hardly ever done in our decades of sitting in the dark, holding hands.

I remembered nothing at all about the story of Dial "M"; I remembered that it had been a Hitchcock film (here's a link to the trailer from 1954 on YouTube--I just re-discovered that it had been in 3-D--and I just added it to my queue on Netflix).

But if I saw it (and I'm pretty sure I did), I remembered nothing--and nothing really "came back to me," either, as we were watching the play. I will admit that I noticed the ... key ... bit of evidence that would eventually reveal the murderer, but I've learned to keep those observations to myself when I'm sitting next to Joyce.

They kept the script in its time period (England, early 1950s). They used a dial phone, wore period clothing, used period furniture and accessories (all the action takes place in a flat), kept the slang, kept the amounts of money (which seemed amusing now--so little were the funds that were discussed). The only concession to the contemporary? Whenever there was a phone call, they projected black-and-white video of the person on the other end on a huge screen/scrim that appeared upstage, overhead. The live actors had to time their dialogue perfectly with the recorded images, and I thought it all worked very well.

Joyce and I talked later about all the ... talking ... in the script. Such a difference from films (I know--this is a bit of a "duh" point, but it struck us both last night). Dial "M" is a very talky script, yet near us there were several groups of kids (middle and high school), all of whom seemed fully engaged with the text. Hope springs eternal ... maybe actual language will survive the social-media epoch.

Strong performances from the small cast. Two GLT veterans played the detective and a man who ends up being a corpse--Aled Davies and Dougfred Miller, respectively (the latter reappeared later as a patrolman)--and they were both impressive. Especially effective was GLT newcomer Johnathan Dyrud, who played the Bad Guy.

I heard only a couple of cellphones go off, and those moments I wanted to take out my own and dial "M" for murder. But, of course, my cell doesn't have a dial. Which, of course, is the reason I'm not in jail today ... not yet, anyhow.

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