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Saturday night found Mrs K and I attending Epilogue Players’ Dial M for Murder, the Frederick Knott play which had the unusual distinction of premiering on British television in 1952, before opening for successful runs that same year on West End in London as well as on Broadway. It was later adapted to become a popular film in 1954, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

The plot is full of wonderful twists as the main character plots his wife’s demise, sees his plan come out all wrong, and tries to recover from the fallout with what looks to be a foolproof alternative scheme. Brent A. Wooldridge directs the action with a deft hand, keeping the actors on a smooth rail as they spin the tale. Tight pacing and plenty of subtle nuisances make for an engaging telling of the murder-mystery. Under Wooldridge’s “baton” the always tricky endeavor of staging American actors as English accented characters is done with unblemished perfection.

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Sarah M. Froehlke (as Margot Wendice), Ken Ganza (as Inspector Hubbard) and Jay Hemphill (as Tony Wendice) star in Epilogue Players’ production of “Dial M for Murder”.

The cast is impressive from top to bottom. Jay Hemphill is flawless as Tony Wendice, the husband with murder on his mind. He is totally in tune with his character and presents a completely detailed portrayal. He is fast becoming one of the most highly regarded actors in our local theatre scene and this is for good reason. Tony’s wife Margot is played by Sarah M. Froehlke. I have known Sarah for many years, but I believe this is the first time I have seen her work and she does a very wonderful job with what is an emotional and, at times, quite physical role.

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Sarah M. Froehlke (as Margo Wendice) and James Gross (as Max Halliday) share a past, and a drink, in Epilogue Players’ production of “Dial M for Murder”.

James Gross plays the American, Max Halliday, and picks a correct low-key persona to do so. The underplay works on all levels, though the idea bled into his line delivery a bit and at times, especially early on, I had a little trouble hearing him. That notwithstanding, he is spot on in his characterization and delivered an intelligent portrait of the man. Mike Bauerle takes the role of Captain Lesgate, a thuggish opportunist who is engaged to commit the murder. His villain is not overly villainous, which works well as he makes us believe his character is a truly effective thug and not a caricature.

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Jay Hemphill (as Tony Wendice) trys to convince Mike Bauerle (as Capt. Lesgate) to do his dirty work in Epilogue Players’ production of “Dial M for Murder”.

Ken Ganza’s rendering of Inspector Hubbard is a thing to behold. Here again, an underplayed style is most effective and Ganza’s Scottish accent is right on the money. The character is written with an almost Columbo-like persona, and Ganza presents what is basically a master-class on playing a murder-mystery inspector. Rounding out the top-notch cast is Jacob Swain who does a solid job with his various voice-on-the-phone responsibilities and as Thompson, who works alongside Hubbard.

Lastly, let me give kudos to Stephen E. Foxworthy for his effective set design. And his ideas were skillfully constructed by Lea Viney. Linda Grow’s costumes, Jeff Kern’s lighting design and Duane Mercier’s sound design all added to the event’s impact.

Bottom-line: this is a fully realized production of what is really one of the best murder-mystery plays, in my opinion. The direction is crisp and correctly styled, and the actors deliver impressive performances.

As an aside, let me say that I talked with Ed Mobley before the show. Ed is the new president of Epilogue Players and he is excited about the changes he has begun incorporating into the  organization. Some that he mentioned are: the new online reservation system – brownpapertickets.com – which is now in place; a brand new sound system; the ability to take payment at the door for credit cards; plans for remodeling the light booth as well as the restroom facilities; and excitement is building for next year’s 40th anniversary season. Clearly, Epilogue has upgraded their program design and quality. Included in “Dial M’s” program, there are some very nice character photos alongside the actor bios. At the top of the list of changes and improvements is the rewriting of by laws to allow people of all ages to become members of Epilogue. Previously, membership was limited to persons over 50 years of age. (Ed assured me that there will still be a focus on plays for the more senior members of our community.)

Dial M for Murder continues through March 13th. Reservations and ticket information can be found by calling 317.926.3139, by emailing epilogue.players@yahoo.com, or on the internet at http://www.brownpapertickets.com .

* – photos by Rann DeStefano