Trust Me on This, Lifeline Theatre. The publicity for Alan Donahue’s adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s 1988 whodunit emphasizes its setting in the cutthroat world of tabloid journalists–whose unscrupulous tactics to meet their quota of scandal are nowadays neither shocking nor titillating. But time has not diminished the seductive intricacy of Westlake’s grotesquely comic thriller.
The story begins when cub reporter Sara Joslyn, on the way to her first day of work at the Weekly Galaxy, discovers a dead body in a car. Her employers are less interested in murder than in crashing celebrity weddings and uncovering jiltings, but our heroine’s increasing skill at covert surveillance and burning curiosity bring her perilously close to exposing the killer nonetheless.
Donahue’s concise script, briskly directed by Dorothy Milne, keeps the screwball action immediate and coherent, and the eight cast members–led by Katie McLean as the inquisitive Sara and William Smillie as her skeptical boss–vividly portray Westlake’s array of eccentric characters (among them an editor in chief, played by the versatile Peter Greenberg, who zips around on an assisted-mobility scooter with a desk attached to it). In the end, the play’s tightly constructed plot and dazzling execution hold us spellbound despite its tawdry universe. You can trust me on this.