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By Frederick Knott
Directed by Laura Webb
October 29 to November 14, 2010
Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography
Volunteer of the Production
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
November 5, 2010
Frederick Knott, who is best known for his mesmerizing mysteries, "Dial M for Murder" and "Wait Until Dark," has also penned a lesser-known work, "Write Me A Murder," sandwiched between his two more successful works.
This drama is presently playing at theWaukesha Civic Theatre, and though it is mildly entertaining, it does not measure up to the other two for spine-tingling suspense.
The story begins with two brothers meeting at the family estate as their father lay dying. Clive, the older brother, is about to marry an American millionaire, so he undersells Rodingham Manor and the town to the greedy Charles Sturrock, who plans to buy up and develop the whole area. Charles is married to Julie, an aspiring writer. After the sale, Clive leaves for greener pastures.
David, the younger brother, is a reclusive, modest writer who lives on a houseboat. When he meets Julie and offers to critique her writing, they are instantly attracted to each other.
To Julie, anyone would seem attractive when compared to Charles, her rude, domineering, ruthless entrepreneurial husband.
Dr. Elizabeth Wooley also figures into the story. She delivered the two brothers and cared for their dying father. Rodingham is a small town, and she knows all about it.
Love or lust is the dominant motive when Julie and David decide to turn their fictional story into reality.
By murdering Charles and marrying David, she gets the money and the better mate. So that’s the plan.
However, unforeseen complications arise, and before you know it, the fates of Charles, Clive, David and Julie change forever.
And how we get there comprises the intrigue and irony of the tale. I dare not spoil that.
This review is based on attending a dress rehearsal, so some of the problems I saw in the production were no doubt solved before opening night.
The play is divided into three acts and nine scenes, so making scene changes can be troublesome and disruptive.
Jon Danner as Charles tends to overact a bit, Joel Marinan as Clive seems somewhat unfocused and Frances Klumb lights up her cigarettes but forgets to take a drag on them.
Zack Zembrowski as David is quite good, but the massive changes in his character seem somewhat implausible, which might be the fault of the writer, not the actor.
Kelly Simon as Julie is consistently engaging. I liked how James Jacques made his cameo role as Constable Hackett so memorable.
The set design ( Robb Smith) facilitates the action, the costume designer (Shannon Paulick) aces that 1940s look, the sound design (Wyatt Webb) does not always synch with the action and the lighting (Nick Da Via) needed tweaking, especially between scenes and scene changes. The show is directed by Laura Webb.
By Marilyn Jozwik
Posted: Nov. 2, 2010
There's only one thing wrong with Waukesha Civic Theatre's latest murder mystery: It's not much a mystery.
To be fair, "Write Me a Murder" is more of a psychological thriller, which delves into the devious minds of greedy men.
Written by Frederick Knott, who also brought us two tension-filled mysteries ("Wait Until Dark" and "Dial 'M' for Murder"), this show got shortchanged in the nail-biting department.
WCT, however, does a good job with the material at hand.
Zack Zembrowski as David Roddingham, master of a country manor that falls into the hands of the arrogant, unscrupulous Charles Sturrock (Jon Danner), has all the fine manners of the well-bred, yet conveys his character's sinister side as he goes about plotting a murder.
The twist here is that he hones his evil plan while helping Sturrock's wife, Julie (Kelly Simon), write a story for a contest. Roddingham, who also claims to be a writer, meticulously rehearses the murder with Julie, down to the last detail. Julie is only too happy to have such a creative mind assist with her story.
There are a couple of twists and surprises along the way - and the ending is the ultimate comeuppance - but even distorted, creepy sounds during scene changes can't infuse this show with the thrills it seeks. Again, it's not for lack of effort.
Danner conveys Charles Sturrock's despicable character as he bullies everyone in his path to achieve wealth and power. He ridicules his wife's writing, and just about everything else she does, and backs the Roddinghams into a corner as he negotiates the sale of their country estate.
Simon gives WCT audiences another fine turn, following up on last year's starring role in "And Then There Were None." Her big red hair, tailored suits and high heels give her character a sort of film noir look and her savvy stage sense makes her easy to watch. She infuses her character with just the right amount of spunk and naiveté to keep her interesting.
Joel Marinan as Clive Roddingham, David's brother, also does well affecting a suitably snobbish British air.
Even the smaller roles are nicely handled with this ensemble cast. Fran Klumb, who was such a hoot in WCT's "Cemetery Club" last year, takes command of her Dr. Elizabeth Wooley character, but the role doesn't allow her to flex her comedic muscles, which is her forte.
As Constable Hackett, James Jacques fills his scene with a lot of character as he interrogates the murder suspect. With his Irish brogue and affable manner, the scene is strangely reminiscent of the McDormand-Macy interrogation in the movie "Fargo."
Director Laura Webb presented a well-rehearsed cast on the preview night. Zembrowski especially executes a boatload of lines and a complicated series of actions as his multi-faceted character plans his evil deeds.
There were several prop glitches on preview night, including pieces falling and doors not closing, which were likely cleaned up by opening night. Another annoyance was the show's numerous phone calls, which sent the stage into darkness to focus on the callers.
While all the actors inhabit their characters well, the writer of "Write Me a Murder" simply doesn't give them enough drama to play with. Perhaps he should have penned "Rewrite Me a Murder."
Jon was always ready to be of assistance in whatever capacity needed. He worked on the set up to and during the run; he was always willing to take risks during the rehearsal process; and he was more than happy to come early or stay late to get the job done. One of his peers said "his enthusiasm and willingness to help made him an absolute pleasure to work with." Thank you, Jon!