Mayfield Dinner Theatre: “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”

For Christmas last year, Mack, Thom and I gave Grandma Male a ticket to an upcoming show at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. None of us had been before, but with our collective love of theatre and food, we thought it would be something fun to experience together for the first time.

Mayfield Dinner Theatre

The show we agreed on was Dial ‘M’ for Murder, a play made famous by Alfred Hitchcock, that happened to star two of my favourite Teatro la Quindicina actors – Jeff Haslam and Mark Meer. Tickets ranged from $55.99 to $79.99, which seemed pricey to me at the outset, but factoring in the convenience of dinner and entertainment in the same venue took the edge off somewhat. As I hadn’t been to the theatre before, I didn’t have any idea what constituted a good seat. I relied extensively on the opinion of the ticket agent, and thankfully, she steered us to a pretty good seat.

Our view of the stage, from a raised booth

When I purchased the tickets, I was told that the buffet dinner would be served from 6-8pm. We arrived around 6:30 to an already bustling venue. Looking around the room (and seeing the ads for retirement communities, mobility aids, and dentures in the playbill) it was evident that the crowd skewed older – Mack commented that the Mayfield might consider further marketing initiatives to attract a more diverse audience.

After depositing our coats and bags at our comfortable booth angled just right of the stage, we headed to the separate buffet room, connected to the theatre via a short hallway. Nearly three dozen cold starters and hot entrees awaited us, in addition to the usual assortment of cakes, squares and fruit at the dessert bar. We joined the line-up, eager to fill up our first of several plates.

Like most buffets, the food was hit and miss. Recommended dishes included the smoked Alberta whitefish, the roasted chicken in cream sauce and sautéed beef tenderloin and shitake mushrooms. To avoid: sushi, the prime rib (served cold), and the flavourless manicotti.

My plate

We seemed to fare better on dessert as a whole, each of us enjoying our respective choice of sweets. Mack especially liked the carrot cake, and my black forest torte was rich, but thankfully restrained in terms of sugar content.

Mack and Thom hit up the dessert bar

Our early arrival ensured we had plenty of time to enjoy our food, without feeling rushed. When they announced that the buffet would be closing in fifteen minutes we had already had our fair share. Although the food was self-serve, a server did approach our table to ask if we wanted any drinks other than water and coffee. Also, roving staff were great at promptly picking up empty dishes and refilling glasses – even though it was our first time, it was clear the Mayfield was a well-oiled machine.

As for the other half of the evening, I was a bit disappointed with the show, which follows a jealous husband as he blackmails an old college classmate into killing his wife. While I’ve never seen the Hitchcock version, I expected a lot more from this production and from the actors. I thought the use of ominous music was unnecessary and overdone, and cheapened the on-stage tension tangible in some scenes. Also, while Jeff Haslam (playing the scheming husband Tony Wendice) was somewhat successful at walking the fine line between drama and comedy, John Wright (in the role of Inspector Hubbard) was less so, and to me, upended the serious tone of the play. More than anything, I found myself unable (or unwilling) to sympathize with any of the characters, so in the end, the show was a lost cause for me.

With this particular show, and the at par meal, Mack and I both agreed that we didn’t see the value of our $69.99 ticket. Besides the convenience of a one-stop dinner and show, the alternatives that we could think of (dinner at Origin India or Packrat Louie and show at the Varscona or Catalyst Theatres) would be similar in price, but almost guaranteed to be of better quality. While I wouldn’t rule out a visit in the future, the sway of the production would have to be pretty great to get me through the door again.

Of course, with any night out, the company plays a factor. And on that night at least, we found some solace at our table.

Grandma Male and Thom

Mack and me

Mayfield Dinner Theatre (at the Mayfield Inn & Suites)
16615 109 Avenue
Ticket office: (780) 483-4051

Dial ‘M’ for Murder runs until April 11, 2010