• Broadway's Best

Broadway’s Best Mystery and Thriller Plays

May 28, 2024

by Ben Togut

Mystery and thriller plays have enthralled Broadway for decades. Through taut pacing and nail-biting suspense, these plays have kept audiences at the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the twists and turns that await them.

Angel Street, also known as Gaslight, premiered on Broadway in 1941. A suspense thriller written by Patrick Hamilton, the play takes place in Victorian London and tells the story of a husband intent on driving his wife insane. Angel Street was an instant hit and was adapted into a 1954 film starring Ingmar Berman, which is considered responsible for popularizing the term “gaslight.” The play was later revived on Broadway in 1975 starring Michael Alinson and Dina  Merrill.

Dial M For Murder, a murder mystery which opened on Broadway in 1952. Written by Frederick Knott, the play is about a tennis player plotting to murder his socialite wife to steal her inheritance. The play has been adapted several times, first as a 1954 Hitchcock film starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly and 1998 movie remake called A Perfect Murder featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas.

Witness for the Prosecution, written by Agatha Christie, had its Broadway premiere in 1954. Taking place in 1920s London, the play is about a man accused of murdering a widow to steal her money. The play was a resounding success, with actors Patricia Jessel and Francis L. Sullivan both winning Tony Awards for their performances. Witness for the Prosecution was later adapted into a 1957 film starring Billy Wilder and Marlene Dietrich and a 1982 made-for-television drama featuring Beau Bridges, Diana Rigg, and Deborah Kerr.

Wait Until Dark, which opened on Broadway in 1966 and was written by Frederick Knott. This thriller tells the story of a blind woman who is targeted for owning a heroin-filled doll her husband transported from Canada. The original Broadway production starred Robert Duvall and Lee Remick, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Susy Hendrix. The play was adapted in a 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin, and later revived on Broadway in 1998 with a cast including Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino.

Sleuth, which premiered on Broadway in 1970. Written by Anthony Shaffer, the play is about games-obsessed mystery writer Andrew Wyke who convinces his wife’s lover Milo to stage a robbery of her jewelry. When writing the play, Shaffer drew inspiration from his friendship with beloved composer Stephen Sondheim, whose passion for games served as the basis for Andrew Wyke. Sleuth was critically acclaimed upon its Broadway opening and won the Tony Award for Best Play. The play has been adapted into a film twice: in 1972 starring Laurence Olivier as Wyke and Michael Caine as Milo, and again in 2007, featuring Jude Law as Milo and Michael Caine as Andrew Wyke.

Elliott Gould and Mariette Hartley in rehearsal for <i>Deathtrap</i>

Death Trap, which opened on Broadway in 1978. Written by Ira Levin, Death Trap is about a disillusioned playwright who makes a last-dash effort at success after a series of unsuccessful plays. Starring Broadway veterans John Woods and Marian Seldes, the play was a commercial success and remains one of the longest running non-musicals on Broadway. In 1982, Death Trap was adapted into a film starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. In the late 90s, Elliott Gould and Mariette Hartley (pictured above) starred in the play’s national tour.