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Are you afraid of the dark? Are you unnerved by the workings of shadowed things just out of view? What about a lurking presence in the room unidentified, or a faint flutter of breath untraced? In darkness it is only one’s awareness of that which is unknown that is illuminated, and in it there is full exposure of vulnerabilities to be preyed upon. For some the dark can be stifling and terrifying. However, for theatergoers daring enough to see Triad Stage’s production of Wait Until Dark, the absence of sight can be thrilling.
Triad Stage ushers in its 13th season with one of Frederick Knott’s most beloved plays, and the final of his unfortunately limited collection. Wait Until Dark originally opened on Broadway in 1966, starring Robert Duvall and Lee Remick, who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress. Thereafter, the piece was solidified as a classic among psychological thrillers once adapted into film in 1967 with Audrey Hepburn as the lead. Hepburn was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and the film as well as play garnered huge success worldwide.
Set in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village, three con men go to great lengths of deception and maliciousness to retrieve a drug-filled doll from the unsuspecting and blind Susy Hendrix. With the help of a few disguises and coercions, the men weasel their way into the apartment. However, once they are unable to retrieve the doll, things turn dangerous and deadly.
Suspense requires a number of components in order to be achieved effectively. There must be a gradual build of energy based upon the audience’s invested interest in the characters. Devices successfully employed such as subtle foreshadowing, lighting (Norman Coates), and sound (Jonathan Fredette) are essential. However, the most important factor for edge-of-your-sit suspense is making the audience wait. Most of the first act is filled with expositional dialogue, which at times can seem unnecessary and dated to contemporary spectators. Just as the name implies, a large portion of the play is a literal waiting till the dark of the second act. However, the delay more than pays off once the action ensues and all the suspenseful components align.
Any dragging of the plot must be accredited to Mr. Knott, and not at all to the superbly cast ensemble of actors. Laurence Lau, as Harry Roat Sr.& Jr., the devilishly cool psychopathic mastermind, is chilling. There is an insidiously evil rumbling under the surface of his performance, which is reminiscent of Norman Bates (Psycho) and Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs).
Cheryl Koski delivers a powerful performance as blind heroine Susy Hendrix. She is able to balance a softness that is compassion inducing, yet maintains an inner strength so as not to fall victim to the stereotypical damsel in distress. She handles the cumbersome task of “playing blind” with respect, dignity, and precision difficult to master. Koski depicts a woman with great courage not at all limited by her physical handicap.
It is a testament of the brilliance of theatre when the spectators can be overcome with adrenaline and anticipation as it is with Triad Stage’s Wait Until Dark. If you are ready for a gripping rollercoaster of classic suspense, contrary to the name, you are urged not to wait!
Wait Until Dark continues through Sunday, September 29. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.