Though voicemail might have saved some trouble for the characters in his “Dial M for Murder,” it wasn’t an option at the time for playwright Frederick Knott.

Hackmatack Playhouse is finishing off its season with a production of the mystery made famous by the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film. Though the play initially keeps the audience on hold with some rather lengthy plot exposition, a fateful call gets the action moving onstage in the old barn theater in Berwick.

The story concerns married couple Tony and Margot and takes place entirely in their London apartment. He’s a washed-up tennis pro, and she’s an heiress to a small fortune. Margot’s had a prior affair with a visiting American named Max but still wants to make a go of the marriage. Tony wants to put a very permanent end to it and make off with his wife’s money.

Tony concocts a blackmail scheme involving Max’s romantic letters to Margot and then enlists a seedy acquaintance to murder her. Things go awry, but Tony is still quick on his feet in controlling the narrative to his advantage as suspicions arise.

Audience members may want a scorecard to follow the detailed plot closely. But they can just as easily sit back and watch the struggle of good versus evil, acted out with (mostly) British accents, unfold in a classic style.

The tall and slender Bretton Reis plays the scoundrel Tony with just hints of what’s beneath the mask of respectability as his plan evolves. Ever the tennis player, Tony’s ready for the next volley and is not above attacking the officials who come to investigate.

Crystal Lisbon, who the program tells us studied in England, has Margot’s proper British accent and attitudes down perfectly, even as her character is repeatedly victimized. Her Margot even graciously announces her “breakdown” before it happens, amid unsavory revelations.

Sven Wiberg’s Max, an American mystery writer whose offhanded comments suggest genre conventions masterfully rendered in this play, also offers perspective on the British class divisions that complicate the search for truth.

Adam LaFramboise plays the sneering bounder at the mercy of Tony’s carrot-and-stick approach to getting him to do his dirty work for him. Richard Harris is the inspector who always seems to have one more question. Jeremy Toussaint fills a small role as a clueless copper.

The period set by Dane Leeman and costumes by Fran Bechtold, along with lighting by Michael Turner, serve director Gary Locke’s successful efforts at recreating a classic thriller.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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