April 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Emlyn Williams’ 1935 yawner is a mystery all right: For a play whose central prop is a creepy leather hat box the shape and size of — ahem! — a human head, Night Must Fall is so innocuous that one wonders why Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre didn’t dust off a thriller more, well, thrilling. Buffed-up Matthew Broderick — equal parts nudge-nudge nefar-iousness and Ferris Bueller charm — gives a killer performance as an is-he-or-isn’t-he Irish psycho who adds fire to an otherwise ineffectively staged revival. C

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