Spine-tingling thriller Dial ‘M’ for Murder comes to Bucks

The production is playing in New Hope at the Bucks County Playhouse through June 15

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Dial ‘M’ for Murder stars Olivia Gilliatt, who is making her Bucks County Playhouse debut as Margot. In her opinion, it’s a “fantastic” show and feels “extremely contemporary,” despite being written in 1952. Source: Bucks County Playhouse

There’s nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. No bells, whistles or special effects. Just pure, edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Through June 15, audiences can experience that nail-biting anticipation in-person when Bucks County Playhouse’s 80th anniversary season commences with the spine-tingling thriller Dial ‘M’ for Murder.

Written by Frederick Knott and directed by Mike Donahue (The Legend of Georgia McBride), Dial ‘M’ for Murder follows Tony, played by JD Taylor (Apologia, The Last Match), who believes he has plotted the perfect crime. Tony is on a mission to kill his wealthy wife Margot, played by Olivia Gilliatt (Mother of the Maid at The Public), so he can acquire her fortune. Even when the tables are turned, Tony stops at nothing to make sure he’s successful.

The play, which inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film starring Ray Milland as Tony and Grace Kelly as Margot, weaves an ever-tightening web of danger, greed and love triangles.

“Throughout its 80-year history, the Playhouse has produced plays that have held up to the definition of ‘classic.’ It seems fitting that we launch this anniversary season with Frederick Knott’s timeless masterpiece of nail-biting suspense,” said executive producer Robyn Goodman. “This play is as fresh and fascinating as it was when it appeared on Broadway in 1952. We know that Mike Donahue, this incredible design team and fantastic cast are working hard to ensure there are extra thrills and chills waiting for our audiences.”

Ahead of the opening night performance on Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m., The Times caught up with Gilliatt, who is making her Playhouse debut as Margot.

Before diving into the speedy rehearsal process in New York City, Gilliat was somewhat familiar with Dial ‘M’ for Murder, though she’s received numerous pleasant surprises along the way.

“I was really pleased to discover that it was not written by Agatha Christie,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t want to sound blasphemous, but I think he [Knott] is a better writer. It’s a well-done, tight play.”

Gilliatt shared a similar sentiment to Goodman, expressing how Dial ‘M’ for Murder is still very much relevant in 2019.

“I think it’s a fantastic show, and I didn’t know that going into it. What’s amazing is that it was written in 1952 and it feels extremely contemporary. There is a tautness to the psychology of what’s going on and what motivates people and the world they operate in and what’s actually going on behind the scenes,” she said. “It’s fun to get to examine something that can be seen as a timepiece through a contemporary lens, because it’s astonishing how the world hasn’t changed that much, especially in regards to women.”

For Gilliatt, it’s been a thrill to put her own spin on a character who leads a life so drastically different from her own.

“It’s very much about class, and she’s from this super-privileged world. She’s an heiress. It’s kind of fun to play somebody who has had everything served to them on a platter. There have been complications, nothing is simple, but to get to experience that and have that whole world completely turned upside down is really fun and kind of exhausting to live in,” Gilliatt said. “Things get so turned around on her.”

In Gilliatt’s opinion, audiences will surely be clutching the arm rests of their seats, just as she’s been admittedly doing in New York.

“I’m sitting in rehearsal watching other scenes, and I know what happens in the play but I’m still on the edge of my seat because it’s not so much about the ultimate outcome. It’s about how the characters do what they do,” Gilliatt said. “It’s very psychologically compelling. It’s got a lot of colors to it. Nothing is black and white.”

Dial ‘M’ for Murder also stars Clifton Duncan (BCP’s Clue: On Stage and The Play That Goes Wrong) as Max Halliday, Grant Harrison (Amazon’s The Tick and CBS’ God Friended Me) as Captain Lesgate and Thompson, and Graeme Malcom (Equus and Translations on Broadway) as Inspector Hubbard.

The production plays the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 2 p.m. (plus an additional evening performance on Wednesday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m.); Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m. (except Friday, June 7, at 7 p.m.); Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Single tickets to Dial ‘M’ for Murder are on sale now. Tickets start at $55. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Season ticket packages are still available. For complete details and to purchase tickets, visit BucksCountyPlayhouse.org, call 215–862–2121, or visit the box office at 70 S. Main St., New Hope.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com