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Sorry, Wrong Number

rotary telephone

Lucille Fletcher has a lot to answer for. Why? Back in the 1940s, she penned the thriller Sorry, Wrong Number, a novel that was later made into a play which my fourth-grade class watched the sixth graders perform in a talent show at our school. In this suspenseful story, a bedridden woman overhears an apparent murder plot being discussed on the phone and becomes increasingly frantic as her attempts to notify the authorities are thwarted. The chilling ending left me traumatized and suspicious of telephone calls for the rest of my childhood! (Come to think of it, my elementary school’s administration also has a lot to answer for, allowing a sensitive nine-year-old to see such a play.)

Last Thursday, at the Carlingwood branch, I re-encountered Sorry, Wrong Number when I took part in a play reading workshop given by Louise Hayden and sponsored by MASC. This time around, however, the play evoked more enjoyment than terror as the other workshop participants and I took turns reading the parts of the various characters. I was able to see more of the humour in the text than I had when I was nine, and Louise Hayden did a nice job of putting the play in historical context.

As Louise pointed out, reading a play aloud with a group is often more engaging that reading it silently to oneself, and I think that we all enjoyed ourselves. The setting was very informal – just a group of us seated in a circle – and there was no one to care if we made errors in pronunciation. We particularly appreciated this when we went on to read a Chekhov play full of long names.

Sorry Wrong Number was also made into a movie starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster, and, astonishingly, into an opera. We unfortunately don’t have the movie in our collection, but you can access an online audio version of the opera, as well as the libretto, through our Naxos music library. Frankly, though, I would suggest just reading the play script, which we have in a few anthologies in our collection. (You might not want to read it alone at night, however.)