THE SOUND OF MURDER by William Fairchild premiered in London in 1959, making the plot somewhat predictable now, given the abundance of murder mysteries written and being produced on local stages. But this one set play is exactly the kind of British murder mystery that Theatre 40 audiences enjoy, especially with the company’s designers onboard who always create a visually stunning production, including set designer Jeff G. Rack, lighting designer Brandon Baruch (who has a real knack for realistic lightning at just the right moment), sound designer Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski (whose thunder signals an upcoming revelation, although his original music is a bit too overwhelming at times), and beautifully designed, color-coordinated costumes by Michèle Young with hair/wigs/make-up design by Judi Lewin.
Skillfully directed by Adrian Cohen to keep the action interesting and a lot more than just a lot of talking heads with British accents, the cast of THE SOUND OF MURDER includes Roslyn Cohn, Gabriel Olivas, David Hunt Stafford, Peter Trencher, David Westbay and Kate Whitney. And why that title? There’s some audio equipment involved that turns out to be a pivotal prop in the investigation!
Charles Norbury, a wildly successful writer of children’s books, is popular in his field but not at home, especially since he treats his long-suffering wife with arrogance, often as a cruel tormentor. To make matters even more complicated, Charles really hates being around children, thus he has denied his wife any children of her own. In short, he’s the sort of fellow who would make the world a better place if only he would just die. Theatre 40 favorite David Hunt Stafford has a ball chewing the scenery in the role, developing the writer’s audacity and cunning mind to perfection.
So it makes sense his wife Anne (Kate Whitney, dressed to the nines in period-perfect style), turns to another man for affection, and eventually the two of them devise a fool-proof plan to do away with the husband since, of course, Charles won’t grant her a divorce as it would damage him professionally with the parents of his juvenile fans. But can Anne really trust her handsome lover Peter Marriot (Gabriel Oliva) to execute their plan for his murder so the two may inherit her husband’s wealth, marry, and create the family she so craves?
The squeaky wheel turns out to be none other than Charles’ frustrated secretary Miss Forbes (Roslyn Cohn), the one person who has real regard for him, although she has been infatuated with Peter for years, fully aware of his affair with Anne. But she thinks nothing of it when she arrives to transcribe his latest story dictation from a reel-to-reel tape, until she listens to it and discovers the machine was left on and recorded the lovers’ plans. Will she go to Charles and tell him of his wife’s deception? Will she alert the police (Peter Trencher and David Westray) to the crime, even before it happens?
In a turnaround of sorts, Miss Forbes uses the information to trap the man of her dreams into marriage rather than reveal him as the murderer. So when the police finally arrive after Charles has been murdered, she assists in getting them to believe the circumstantial evidence that the husband drowned accidentally while chasing a prowler. Thus vindicated, poor Peter is forced into a “shotgun” marriage and honeymoon in Paris with Miss Forbes, while Anne is forced to sell the home in which she now lives alone. But, some weeks later, there is a surprise in store… and I’m not telling!!!