Theatre 40 continues its 2018-19 season of stage plays with William Fairchild’s THE SOUND OF MURDER, a classic murder mystery in the British style about a spouse’s plot to do away with her husband with the person she really loves, and the secretary that stands within its middle with a plan of her own.
David Hunt Stafford plays Charles Norbury. He’s a rather successful author of a series of children’s books. Unlike the genteel nature of his writings, his persona is far from kind and simple. In fact, he is rather manipulative to his wife Anne (Kate Whitney), where he uses his personality treating her as a lowly servant, even down to refusing to have children with her–the same beings that made him a success in the literary world. Anne has a lover, Peter Marriot (Gabriel Oliva). The two desire to marry and have a life of their own. However, Charles rightly refuses to grant a divorce with the notion that being a divorced author of kids books would tarnish his longstanding career. So the only way to get rid of Charles is to develop a plot to murder this man as Anne and Peter devise. Meanwhile, Charles has a secretary, the studious Miss Forbes (Roslyn Cohn) whose job is to transcribe the writing he creates as he dictates his verbiage via a tape recorder. She learns about the plot from hearing a recording unintentionally made of Anne and Peter plotting the murder. This situation leads toward a murder and a love affair finally developing. So the elements remains. Will Anne and Peter get away from this fiendish plan in order to live a life of bliss? Is Miss Forbes also in love with Peter? Will Charles really be bumped off? And will the police find out who did what to whom?
This play is one of those classic English “whodunits” that holds the expected (and well received) plot twists that progress while this production plays itself out–so to speak! It’s also one of the more obscure plays of this kind around, meaning that it’s so unknown, it’s near new after some sixty years from when this play was first presented on London’s West End in its rather short run. (It was due to being poorly received!) However, time has been very kind to this play since it’s very well executed on the Theatre 40 stage. The characters presented are those one would find in a British murder mystery. The performers appearing in this show take their English rather seriously as every player are deep into their roles. Theatre 40’s artistic and managing director, David Hunt Stafford takes the lead as the villainous Charles. His character may be described as a bit “over the top”, but is really seen as one that is evil in the less obvious places, including to his spouse as portrayed by Kate Whitney. Although she is the victim, her character is strong enough once she places herself into the thick of things. The same goes for the secretary Miss Forbes as performed by Roslyn Cohn. She may just be a hired hand, but she pushes to get what she desires out of the situation. Adrian Cohen directs this show that keeps the spirit of a traditional British bred murder mystery in full check, as those plot twists take their turns in the right places.
Theatre 40’s residential set decorator Jeff G. Rack dresses the rural cottage Charles and Anne dwells with a blend of classic British country home with traces of middle century modernism, meaning that this comfortable space nestled within the countryside has some hipness to it all–something that isn’t necessarily expected within a tale of murder.
Also appearing in this production is Peter Trencher as Inspector Davidson, and David Westbay appears as Police Constable Nash, present to solve the case.
THE SOUND OF MURDER is indeed a “sound” play! It’s not Agatha Christie, but then again, only Agatha Christie is Agatha Christie! This play is just as deep as a scheme of having somebody snuffed because of one loving somebody else. That is good enough for those that really love a mystery, and this play proves its plot points in full!