Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre Palisades

Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre Palisades

Murder mysteries have created legions of devoted fans from the moment they were first created or reports of real unsolved murders hit the airwaves, keeping people as well as law enforcement up all night in an attempt to figure out "who done it?" Any theater can tell you that fans flock to each Agatha Christie play to hit stages in every city around the world, staying riveted until all is revealed in the final moments of her best-loved murder mysteries. But she is not the only one to enchant audiences with her brilliantly written plot twists and turns.

English playwright and screenwriter Frederick Knott is known for his ingeniously complex, crime-related plots even though he only completed three plays in his career. Two have become classics: the London-based stage thriller Dial M for Murder, which was later filmed in Hollywood by Alfred Hitchcock, and the chilling 1966 play Wait Until Dark, which also became a Hollywood film starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman terrorized by thugs in her basement apartment.

His third play, WRITE ME A MURDER, has never achieved the same acclaim nor been performed nearly as much as his other two hit plays. Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre PalisadesWritten in 1961, the three-act play tells the story of brothers Clive and David Rodingham who inherit the family fortune, including a grand estate with acres of British countryside. upon the death of their father. But when elder brother Clive decides to sell the property and take off for America to get married, he arranges for the brothers to meet ruthless business man Charles and his wife Julie, a would-be thriller writer. And while Charles is anxious to work with the brothers on property deals, he encourages David, who is also a writer, to co-author a murder story with Julie. It isn't long before the two concoct the perfect murder plot, using the Rodingham manor house as the place where it could be committed and never discovered.

Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre PalisadesNow onstage at Theatre Palisades, directed with attention-grabbing skill by Michael-Anthony Nozzi, WRITE ME A MURDER is so well cast that it crackles with plot twists that will keep you guessing just who is really going to get murdered, as there are so many characters who really deserve to be knocked off. At first, all things point to Julie Sturrock (Holly Sidell, dressed to perfection by Nozzi) and David Rodingham (Jeff DeWitt) plotting to carry out their perfectly written murder plot on her overly-controlling husband Charles (Phil Bartoff) who treats his wealthy wife with disdain and much verbal abuse. All three brilliantly inhabit their roles, and it is easy to place yourself on their side, hoping his murder, once finally committed, will go unsolved and the two will marry and live happy ever after on the estate.

But of course, this is a mystery so there has to be a plot twist. The brothers friend and local doctor Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre PalisadesElizabeth Woolley (Michele Schultz) arrives just as the other two are ready to commit the crime, putting their plans on hold. But when the good doctor announces that Charles has died in a car accident on a recently changed to a one-way street in the local town, could it be that someone else has devised an even better murder mystery than the two would-be writers have devised? Was Charles on to them? Has Clive (handsome and debonair Tyler Parker) secretly returned, wishing to regain his share of the estate? Was the doctor in cahoots with one of them to expose the almost-carried out murder of Charles? Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre PalisadesAnd what about Mrs. Tibbett (Laura Goldstein), the Rodingham housekeeper who always listens in on phone calls taking place between scene breaks which reveal interesting facts on what is really going on between those in the house? Is she part of the plot to gain wealth by conspiring to murder one of her employers? I'm not telling - it would spoil the fun!

Adding to the technical merits of the production is the English countryside set design by Sherman Wayne, sound design by Susan Stangl, an incredible number of properties designed by Maria O'Connor and Martha Hunter, who along with Wayne also produces the show, and lighting design also by Wayne and Frans Klinkenberg which adds to the suspenseful and moody atmosphere of the play. And kudos to stage manager Michelle Nozzi and others who no doubt assisted backstage with all necessary costume and scenic changes which kept the action moving along as quickly as possible.

Review: WRITE ME A MURDER Engages Audiences from Start to Finish at Theatre PalisadesTheatre Palisades is presenting Frederick Knott's WRITE ME A MURDER through Sunday, July 15, 2018 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Rd., Pacific Palisades. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for students and seniors. Reservations can be made by calling the Box Office at (310) 454-1970 or online at Free parking is available on site and surrounding residential streets.

Photo credit: Joy Daunis

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