Review of Wait Until Dark
By Frederick Knott
Directed by David L. Yen
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: March 11 – April 3, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(March 12, 2016)
Frederick Knott’s 1966 play Wait Until Dark was so well received that it was turned into a film starring Audrey Hepburn the next year. Three conmen descend on a blind housewife in the quest for a heroin filled doll, but she discovers their intent and fights back in a desperate bid for survival. The primary antagonist, Harry Roat (Erik Weiss), is introduced with a German accent, reflective of the lingering suspicion of foreigners, particularly from East Germany, during the ’60s, adding a layer of menace to his character.
Rehearsals on the set began earlier in the process than is usual, due to extended scenes in pitch darkness or low light, and for the lead character, Susy Hendrix (Denise Elia-Yen), who is blind and needed to look comfortable in her surroundings. Set designer and decorator Elizabeth Bazzano recreated a typical 1960s home complete with raffia and a vintage ice box.
Chris Schloemp as Mike Talman is sympathetic, trying to get by after time in lockup, and finds himself dragged back into a life of crime to get by in the world. He subtly demonstrates pity for Susy that turns into respect and a genuine wish for her well being. When he tries to confront her, she tells him that he could never hurt her enough to break her resolve, and he softens, admitting she is right. His partner in crime, Carlino (Nicholas Christenson), has adept comedic timing, adding a light touch to otherwise disturbing situations. His continual attempts to wipe off fingerprints are an ongoing gag that leave other characters perplexed and the audience deliciously amused.
Denise Elia-Yen brings depth to Susy, demonstrating steadfast courage in impossible situations, authentic frustration at her condition, and raw terror when she realizes the danger of her situation. The audience feels her journey, triumphant when she cleverly deduces the plotting of those she trusts, and frightened for her when she claws for survival against the nefarious Harry Roat. Lighting is used to great effect during that sequence, adding to the tension and allowing imagination to run wild with sound as a guide.
Wait Until Dark is a clever adventure that builds to knuckle whitening suspense, relying heavily on the talented cast, rather than special effects to create tension. It is a good old fashioned thriller that is intellectual, rather than using blood and gore for shock value. Wait Until Dark is an exciting evening in an intimate theatre, thanks to director David Yen’s brilliant direction and a gripping story.