Having never seen the original version of Frederick Knott's 1966 play, I can't tell you what spin locally and nationally renowned playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher has put on it with his adaptation. But I am of the opinion that Jeffrey Hatcher makes everything better, smarter, funnier, so I'm going to assume that's what he did (I'm also looking forward to seeing his adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Theatre in the Round this weekend). Whether the credit goes to Mr. Knott or Mr. Hatcher or both, this Wait Until Dark is a thrillingly creepy suspense story. And even better - the hero of the story is not just a woman, but a blind woman! Hindered neither by her disability nor her gender (this is 1966, remember), using her intellect, courage, and physical strength, Susan figures out what's going on and saves herself and her husband from some pretty serious consequences. Hooray!
The events begin when Susan's photographer husband Sam brings home a doll in his travel case, and claims he doesn't know where it came from. The doll contains something precious, and when its owner(s) come to find it, serious trouble ensues. Yes the plot is a bit convoluted with the doll and the train and the phone calls and the blinds and the various bad guys in play, but hold on, because it's worth the ride. Sam is away when the bad guys show up, and Susan has no one but herself, her remaining strengthened four senses, and the endearingly bratty neighbor girl to get her out of it. She comes up with a plan that involves removing fuses to pitch the basement apartment into utter darkness, putting her at an advantage over her sighted attacker.
Director Scott Ford creates just the right tone and pace (I love well-used silence in theater, and there's much of that here). The six-person cast is strong, particularly Kelly Matthews as Susan. Not only does she have the technical part down, convincingly maneuvering her way around the apartment hands out, feeling the furniture and counting her steps, but she also conveys Susan's feelings of terror, desperation, and determination. You get the feeling Susan was almost waiting for a challenge like this, to prove to herself that she could live up to it. The other standout in the cast is Eric Knutson as the baddest of the bad guys. He's so frighteningly good at playing this cruel and monstrous man that if I ever ran into him on the street, I'd have to fight the urge to run away in terror. Also good are Mark Palmer as the police sergeant, Brandon Osero as Sam, Mark Deel as an army buddy of Sam's, and young Valerie Heideman, a braided and bespectacled scene-stealer as Gloria.
|Kelly Matthews (photo by Scott Pakudaitis)|
Lyric Arts' thrilling and chilling production of Wait Until Dark continues through September 25. If you think you're not afraid of the dark, this show might make you change your mind.