“Oh no, it’s a thriller tonight!” ‘Dial M For Murder’ at Domino Theatre

Poster for Domino Theatre's 'Dial M for Murder'. The title is seen with a phone and a red capital M overtop the phone.

Just in time for horror season, Domino Theatre is back with classic mystery Dial M For Murder. Written by Frederick Knott in 1952 and adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1954, the play has an enduring legacy as a sinister, sophisticated psychological thriller.

Wealthy English socialite Margot Wendice (Leanna Williams) is entangled in a love affair with American crime writer Max Halliday (Dylan Chenier). This doesn’t go over  well with her husband, Tony (Christian Milanovic), a retired tennis star who married Margot for her money. As Tony plots Margot’s murder, things begin to go awry, and a perplexing game of cat and mouse ensues. 

Blood-red curtains, door frames, and windows encircle the quaintly stylish living room where the action is set. Set designers Jen Buder and Kevin Tanner have done magnificent work with a single shade of paint, and I was delighted to notice the whimsical outline of a red phone cord snaking its way across the floor around the stage. Tony’s tennis racket, trophies, and drink cart are laid out meticulously in the Wendices’ home like puzzle pieces before the play begins—each innocuous object a potential clue. 

Milanovic has a strong stage presence as jealous husband Tony. He plays the manipulator well—Tony’s shifting moods come out clearly in Milanovic’s performance, and he portrays plotting and panicking with equal precision.

Chenier is mostly affable as Max, the American crime novelist who’s a little too genre-aware for Tony’s liking. While his inflection hits the right notes, Chenier’s delivery feels a little too speedy at times. This works in his favour in the final act, when the pace of the story ramps up toward its conclusion.

Though Margot has about as much interior depth as a coin purse, Williams digs deep into her comical moments of dramatic irony. While Williams’ characterisation of Margot is initially restrained, she gets into the performance when terror comes calling, telegraphing some fabulous facial expressions in the second act.

Two men and one woman appear in a red room. Each man is wearing a suit; one is standing and one is sitting on a couch. The woman sits in a chair in a turquoise dress.
(Left to right)  Dylan Chenier as Max Halliday, Leanna Williams as Margot Wendice, and Christian Milanovic as Tony Wendice. Photo provided by Domino Theatre.

With a love triangle that’s set up to create drama, I was desperate for some chemistry between Margot and Max to solidify the romance and heighten the stakes. Though Tony claims to have married Margot without loving her, Milanovic is the most persuasive of the group in conveying attraction. While the physical dynamic between Tony and Margot feels fairly natural, the bond between Margot and Max is unconvincing, which undermines the characters’ motivation. 

As the mysterious Mr. Lesgate, Matt Salton is dead funny, bringing the script’s wry humour to life with sly glances and organic pacing. Terry Wade’s performance as Inspector Hubbard is likewise enjoyable, with an impeccable accent and sharp stage presence that helps move the mystery forward. 

Costume designers Bridget Overvelde and Claudia Wade have done beautiful work with the wardrobe, especially Margot’s dresses. When Margot first appears, she’s a shock of turquoise in a room full of  red, black, and beige. Her colourful clothing makes her a focal point onstage—as well as a target. In addition to a well-chosen wardrobe, suspenseful music (sound design by Lloyd Balme) between scenes helps to dial up the tension of this classic thriller. 

‘Dial M For Murder’ plays at Domino Theatre until November 4th, 2023. Tickets and more information can be found here.