Playwright Frederick Knott had a real knack for putting audiences on the edges of their seats and keeping them there.
Best known for Wait Until Dark, he also penned a gem called Dial M for Murder. The Epworth Community Players will be presenting a dinner theater production of Dial M for Murder that is directed by Richard Seng.
"The interesting fact behind this story is that the audience knows everything up front, but they hang in there to see if the culprit is given justice in the end," Seng says. "I liked the idea of directing a show with only one woman among several males. Even though it is set in the 1950s, Margot is a very strong character."
Seng wanted to direct a mystery and he’d always liked the story of Dial M For Murder. "There are five main principal characters in the play," Seng says. "Margot is played by Kathi Pelliccione; Tony, her husband, is played by Kenny Wonderley; Max, the American she had a fling with, is played by Don Jarvis; Lesgate, the hired killer, is played by Mike Cope; and Inspector Hubbard is played by Corbett Coleman."
First staged as a television drama, the play was later turned into a successful film by Alfred Hitchcock. Seng has chosen to leave it in its original setting and time period.
"We’re trying hard to keep it in the 50s," he says. "Updating it would have lost some of the innocence from the female character Margot."
The play is being presented in the New Covenant United Methodist Church social hall. "No matter what the production is, there are always some glitches," Seng says.
"We had to be inventive with the building of the set so it could accommodate Sunday activities on the stage in the social hall," he says. "All the credit for putting my visualization of the set together goes to our extraordinary builder Ernie Zettrotter."
In the past, dinners were prepared by a member of the church, but this time, the food is being catered. Epworth was created 11 years ago when Pat Hoffman, a member of Epworth United Methodist Church, and Jim Nelson, the church’s minister at the time, decided to do a two-person show as a fundraiser.
"Since it was a hit and there was a lot of good feedback, Epworth Players was born," Seng says. "This led to Pat Hoffman directing a show twice a year in the fall and spring for dinner theater. Eventually, others joined the group and we have had many returning actors performing in our plays.
"I feel that the group has been successful because of a few hardy souls who always believed in the old saying ‘The show must go on!’," he says. "That along with the return of some of the finest actors in our community coming to perform in our show. At times it seems like a family, with a repertory feel, with actors we can rely on for our shows."
Future shows will be held. "It’s hard to say at this moment what the next show will be for sure, but we tend to have a following of people who enjoy comedy and mysteries best," Seng says.
"What’s better then a dinner out that you don’t have to cook and a good mystery? Come join us for a evening of mystery and a fun night out with your family or friends."
Pelliccione, who plays Margot Wendice, was looking for a challenging acting role when she learned about the production. This is her acting debut with the Epworth Community Players. "I have a BFA in theatre and have been acting for over 30 years, here and elsewhere," she says.
Margot doesn’t deserve what she gets in the play, Pelliccione says. "She is a sweet and sincere woman who makes some poor decisions along the way," Pelliccione says.
"I’m not gifted in accents, so it’s been daunting for me to try and capture the essence of sounding British," she says. "Also, on stage, I’m used to varying emotional ranges. This character is a British upper-class woman and I’m having to restrain and play subtle and more ‘stiff upper lip.’"
Audiences will have fun with Dial M for Murder, Pelliccione says. "Like all good mysteries, it has its twists and turns, as well as a talented cast and director," she says. "It’s a great way to spend an entertaining evening."
Dial M For Murder
The Epworth Community Players will present Frederick Knott’s Dial M For Murder as a dinner theater production May 15, 16 and 23 from 6-9 p.m. and as a matinee with dessert on May 17 from 3-6 p.m. at the New Covenant United Methodist Church social hall, 2201 Bull Street. The cost is $22 for the dinner/show or $12 for a matinee/dessert. For tickets, call 313-4004.