Listen up, guys and molls. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher has pumped lead, film noir lead, see, into that chestnut Wait Until Dark and it’s a looker. Youse need to leg it to Everyman Theatre because this show is the jakes.
Frederick Knott, of Dial M for Murder fame, wrote Wait Until Dark and set it in 1960s New York City. You may recall the tense 1967 movie starring Audrey Hepburn as Susan, a blind young woman besieged by some very bad men searching for something that may or may not be hidden in her apartment.
In adapting the play, Hatcher moved the action to Greenwich Village in 1944, giving it a film noir twist that heightens the suspense and paranoia as well as capturing the moral opacity and more sinister qualities of the post-World War II era.
The result is dark jolt of suspenseful fun that is scary and racy in a femme fatale sort of way.
Set designer Daniel Ettinger crafts an atmospherically dingy basement apartment in Greenwich Village that is full of pitfalls that Susan (Megan Anderson) must navigate—a short flight of stairs down into the apartment, a step-up to the kitchen, chairs and other pieces of furniture that must stay stationary or Susan bumps into them. Sound designer Patrick Calhoun amplifies the sounds of ringing phones and door buzzers, so we hear in the heightened way Susan does.
Clad in her Katherine Hepburn-esque high-waisted trousers and blouse (by costume designer Ben Argenta Kress), Susan gives off a Rosie the Riveter sense of can-do. Her photographer husband, Sam (Arturo Tolentino), encourages her to do things for herself and be independent.
Hatcher has Susan becoming blind after a car accident and meeting Sam in the hospital, where he was getting psychiatric treatment for his experiences during the war. This adds a certain vulnerability to their love story and marriage, adding to Susan’s feelings of fragility and transience.
Susan has to dig deep, therefore, when she becomes trapped in a group of gangsters’ efforts to retrieve something valuable hidden in a doll. Sam, it turns out, was duped by a dame on a train, who placed the doll in his satchel and noted his address on the luggage tag—intending to go to his apartment and fetch the doll.
While Sam is away on an all-day photo shoot in Connecticut, everyone shows up to get that doll, particularly Roat (Bruce Randolph Nelson), a bloodcurdlingly cruel assassin with a strange, courtly manner—and a switchblade named Geraldine—as well as Carlino (sleazily well-played by Todd Scofield), a former detective on the take.
They manipulate Susan by exploiting her blindness, using visual signals and stillness to throw her off. While Susan is visually impaired, her other senses are sharpened and she begins to piece together what really is happening around her and the danger she’s in.
At one point, she cleverly uses her blindness to turn the tables on Roat, plunging the apartment into darkness where she has the advantage over her attacker. This scene, where you only hear the sounds of a scuffle, is a genuine thrill that had audience members shrieking out loud.
Wait Until Dark
closes October 9, 2016
Details and tickets
Wait Until Dark could be seen as Susan being victimized and scammed but ultimately using her resources to prevail, but it is more nuanced than that. Setting the play in the moral unease and tenseness of the mid-1940s makes it unsettling and disturbing on a level deeper than a damsel in distress.
For one thing, no one is without guilt or above suspicion, not even the surly, foot-stamping neighbor girl Gloria (playing with glowing belligerence by Shannon Hutchinson), who helps Susan with errands, or husband Sam. Or even an old Army buddy of Sam’s, Mike (an abstrusely heroic Eric M. Messner), who drops by the apartment and gets caught up in the proceedings. We find out that Susan too, is capable of duplicity and cunning.
Everybody’s got a story and director Donald Hicken brings out the dual natures of the characters with style, while keeping up a snappy pace. Megan Anderson is so convincing as the blind Susan you hold your breath as she moves around the apartment and are truly concerned about her safety. Her Susan, however, is not a victim. Vulnerable, certainly, but intuitive and resourceful as she copes with mortal danger as well as adjusting to her fairly recent disability.
Anderson is perfectly matched with Nelson as the killer Roat, using his elegant diction as a pointy weapon as he slinks around the apartment flexing his black-gloved hands.
Even though it seems odd to recommend a show with gangsters, gats and shivs as family fare, much of the show’s violence and sexual undertones are implied or take place in the dark. The audience’s imagination more than amply fills in the blanks and hours after Wait Until Dark you might find yourself feeling a little creeped out walking into a dark room.
Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher . Directed by Donald Hicken . Featuring: Megan Anderson, UI-Seng Francois, Shannon Hutchinson, Eric M. Messner, Bruce Randolph Nelson, Todd Scofield, Arturo Tolentino . . Set Design: Daniel Ettinger. Lighting Design: Jay A. Herzog. Costume Design: Ben Argenta Kress. Sound Design: Patrick Calhoun. Fight Choreography: Lewis Shaw. Props Master: Jillian Mathews. Dramaturgy: Johanna Gruenhut. Stage Manager: Amanda M. Hall . Produced by Everyman Theatre . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.
I saw saw this play on a preview night and unless the show was completely revamped, I must agree with the negative reviewers. The play was not suspenseful but downright silly. The set was the best part. I would not recommend this play to friends.
Karen Biedronski says
Karen Biedronski says
I sat front row center at last night’s performance. I am not a subscriber or regular theater goer. I loved the movie as a child and was excited to see the theater production after reading about it in The Sun. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, especially the performances of Megan Anderson as Susan and Shannon Hutchinson as Gloria. Yes, there was a bit of humor, but it was intentional.
I know no one involved in Everyman Theatre, so I don’t have an agenda. This is my opinion. I have recommended the show to all of my friends.
Stephanie, season subscriber says
I have come to think of Everyman Theatre as outstanding community theater. Wait Until Dark however was a huge disappointment. I really wondered if the actors and director had seen the movie or even read Wikipedia’s description of the play. There are supposed to be 3 menacing men who put blind Susan at risk. The military man, Mike, acted as if he was her best friend and protector, no suspense there. The thug acting as a policeman was so non threatening he even fooled a reviewer, Pat Mitchell, who thought he was a policeman! There was no time during the play that I felt drama, suspense or excitement. But it was not all their fault, Susan poorly portrayed a blind person which lessened the thrill factor. I came away feeling like I had seen a mediocre high school production, very disappointed. Hope the rest of the season is much better. Gloria was great!
.pat schmidt says
It is extremely suspect that you are in some way connected to the people, who are connected to the play or are a friend of Jayne Blanchard, who contacted you to write a positive spin on an otherwise pathetic performance. Since you do not give your last name, it makes it even more likely. Furthermore, No one but you and me have commented on this review and none of the other review sites of Wait Until Dark have any comments except mine. If the play was as entertaining as you purport, others would have come forward.
To make matters worse, if anyone attempts to leave a negative review of the play on Pat Mitchell’s site below, she bans it. I, along with the 2 friends that attended the play tried to leave a negative review and it was not allowed. Mitchell must be as thinned skinned as Donald Trump and she is most definitely connected with the actors, as her bio reveals. Her suppression of comments is not only in violation of one’s First Amendment Rights, but creates such a bias that enables theater goers to be duped into thinking the play is stupendous and spine chilling, when the opposite is true.Of course, Mitchell is just a reflection of a compulsive lying fraudulent culture.
I’m with Jessica.
I disagree with the earlier comment entirely. I, too, saw the production, and while I wasn’t fully surprised by the revelations, I still sat at the edge of my seat. I also disagree with the earlier description of Ms. Anderson. I thought she gave a great performance as a blind heroine….something that had to be incredibly difficult.
I enjoyed the performance so much that I’m bringing my friends to it in the next coming weeks…
pat schmidt says
Jayne’s review of this play is pure hyperbole and teeters on propaganda..There is no way that anyone could honestly review this play favorably.becaise this production of Wait Until Dark flopped miserably. Before I state my case, be assured that I am not a mean person out to criticize for the fun of it but I am one to state the truth no matter how unkind.
I am a returning subscriber of Everyman Theater and have been very pleased with the performances, until I saw this one. I was very tempted to leave at intermission but thought that it might get better. I should have gone with my initial gut feeling. Although the play is accredited for being a suspenseful thriller, it failed and instead was comedic. It was like watching a slapstick comedy with Larry, Moe and Curly and the Three Stooges couldn’t have been any less menacing. Bruce Randolph Nelson, who played the murderer Roat, was about as threatening and sinister as the cartoon character, Snidely Whiplash. Megan Anderson, who played Suzy, was a disappointment, in her portrayal of a blind woman, much less a heroine. The fighting or struggling scenes were bumbling and amateurish attempts that evoked laughter. Several times, during what was supposed to leave the audience on the edge of their seats, I couldn’t control my laughter and had to cup my mouth to avoid being rude. It was just plain awful! I have seen much better productions of plays at high school auditoriums. If It was just me that gave the play two thumbs down, I would have not commented but I was at the theater with 2 of my friends, who had the same opinion. I have given the play two stars, simply because the set decoration was realistic and done well. Hopefully, this performance will not be any indication of the next five plays in this season.