“The Sound of Murder” is yet another gem from the creative forces at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. David Hunt Stafford is the main character (Charles), a very successful children’s book writer, who, in actuality, hates children (one of the multiple ironies in this show). His wife Anne, played by the fabulous Kate Whitney, is forever expected to be the dutiful servant, even bringing her husband his favorite cocktail when in the bath.
This drama, from the brilliant mind of William Fairchild, is a suspenseful whodunnit, which purposely confuses the audience with plot twists and turns a la O’Henry, Poe, and Rod Serling. The story of the finding of this hidden kernel is almost as amazing as the production itself. It bombed at its original run in 1959 at a West End theatre in London, and Stafford recovered it amongst the dust, and we, the audience, are the grand and lucky recipients.
When Charles first saunters onto the stage, we see a narcissistic yet talented man who barks orders to his wife. Peter Marriot (Gabriel Oliva) arrives on scene, and discusses with Anne their mutual desire for her to divorce her husband and then to run off together. Next onstage is Charles’ extremely dutiful and devoted secretary Miss Forbes (Roslyn Cohn), who states, unequivocally, “I love my job,” while adjusting the tape machine, an intrinsic part of the intricate set. There is also a bumbling Inspector Davidson (Peter Trencher), reminiscent of the character in “An Inspector Calls,” who visits Charles in his sprawling house to presumably make sure he has a proper updated license for his silver gun, stashed in a drawer in the living quarters, but his real agenda is to get an autograph of Charles on one of his latest tomes for his precious children. This request obviously annoys Charles to no end. When Anne sadly discovers that divorce is out of the question, she and Peter construct a devilish plan to ‘do away’ with Charles, but things suddenly go awry. When, at the end of the first act, Miss Forbes, in total shock, discovers his body, she mysteriously transforms, by start of second act, into a beautiful monster, which truly lies beneath her exterior/facade. This character change is perhaps the most delicious resurrection of this dazzling drama, as she climbs out of her nerdy, librarian shell and shrewdly tells Anne that the gig is up, and basically offers a blackmail, of instead of coming clean to the authorities, she must give up Peter. Miss Forbes has a secret undying crush on Peter and wants him for herself.
No more details of this clever caper shall be revealed, saving the element of surprise for future audiences. However, I will say that the direction by Adrian Cohen is excellent and his talented cast complement his achievement. Sound effects by Joseph Slawinski are admirable, as the thunder and lightening play a most ominous, foreboding role. Set design by Jeff Rack is magnificent, as well as costumes by Michele Young; lighting by Brandon Baruch; and hair & makeup by Judi Lewin. This show is a great example of collaboration at its best. Go see “The Sound of Murder,” a murder mystery that will leave you tantalized, horrified, and gratified!