Nothing beats a night of murder, unless, of course, it’s a night of conspiracy and murder. That’s just what Santa Clara Players presents in their production of Dial M for Murder. This clever show has all the twists and turns you’d expect from the genre and then some.

This show deviates from the regular murder mystery formula in that there’s a tremendous amount of talking about how the murder is likely going to be committed before it’s actually committed. Description by the murderer, so we know who the good and bad guys are almost from the very start. So, the suspense is in not what happened or who done it, but instead if justice will be served in the end. This is a great device and indeed the result is a whole lot of suspense.

With the sort of backward approach to the mystery comes another byproduct.  Copious exposition. There is significantly more talking about doing, rather than actual doing. This talking can feel a bit much at times but it’s tempered with movement. Not staging inserted at random times just for the sake of breaking up dialogue but logical, real movement. This is harder than you might think and it’s a real strength of this production. additionally, making action match the length descriptions was a challenge with the script and plot complexity but, was met with an admirable high attention to detail.

Aside from a cellphone that went off several times during the performance and visibly threw the actors (and who could blame them) and a couple of light cues that went astray, the acting and technical elements were very respectable. No fireworks one way of the other but solid in their consistency and a nice balance of realism and stylized Agatha Christie cliché’ melodrama.

All in all an engaging 3 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a bit of a mystery in reverse. Dial M for Murder plays at the 72 seat Triton Hall Pavillion in Santa Clara through March 17th.

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