Suspense Thriller in “Wait Until Dark”
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
“Wait Until Dark” at the Geffen Playhouse is a riveting revival of Frederick Knott’s 1966 play and the movie version starring Audrey Hepburn in 1967. This adaptation by Jeffery Hatcher with direction by Matt Shakman, changed the time period to 1944, which worked and made for a melodramatic crime genre. But, the writing was very contrived. The plot points were important, but in setting them up,one by one, it was overly apparent that the writer was doing just that; establishing those plot points as if by a laundry list. It was a labored contrivance. However, there was a payoff in Act 2 which was electrifying and held me spellbound.
I actually chuckled as the intricate plot points were being laid down. It was a bit much with the repeated signaling with the blinds and the telephone. I had an “oh brother,” moment or two. And, the intermission was welcome. But, all was forgotten once Act 2 reached its arc. The suspense mounted, and though I had seen the film years ago, I forgot and was carried away as I wondered what would happen to our blind heroine.
Who could forget Audrey Hepburn as the lead, blind waif, Susan trapped in her world of darkness in the basement Greenwich Village basement apartment fighting off two murderers? Hepburn had given a stunning performance that took her out of the romantic comedy genres. But, Alison Pill, with her graceful and demure size, gave us a fresh view with her sharp, tough, and calculating Susan. Her performance was brilliantly believable and lifted the play out of the contrivances.
The storyline was a simple one. There was a doll stuffed with unmentioned valuables, which an unseen woman had planted in the satchel of Sam, Susan’s photographer husband, while sitting next to him on the train. She ends up being killed. The murderer, Roat, a smooth psycho, well-acted by Adam Stein, hires another thug, Sergeant Carlino, to assist in getting the doll back. Rod Mc Lachlan’s bungled and blustered Carlino was not fully realized, but, he had the look of a real police detective. Add Mather Zickel’s Mike, as the friendly and well-intentioned savior to the mix and Susan has her hands full. Mather, who also was in the Geffen’s “Vera Wang, ” gave a credible performance, and there is a surprise twist to his character. Susan’s husband, Sam as played by Matt Mc Tighe was serviceable. The men’s performances heightened the character of Susan.
The plotting of the knife on the table as Act 1 opened, the venetian blinds, the phone signals, the character within a character telegraphed too much and took the smoothness of the drama away. The flaws were in the writing. But, some fine acting in Act 2 heightened the mystery and drama immensely.
I loved Brighid Fleming’s young Gloria. Her energy added immensely to the play and helped lift the ponderous plotting. The two women gave stellar performances. Stein played old Roat, younger Roat, and psycho killer Roat but was stuck in a caricature of an Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter type. Stein broke out of the caricature in Act 2 and gave a compelling performance, which had me gripping the edge of my seat.
The excellent production values with Craig Siebel’s realistic and beautiful set of the 1940’s Greenwich Village basement studio-apartment contributed to the drama. Were the radiators on the ceiling? That was a detail which bothered me. Elizabeth Harper’s lighting, added significantly in creating the melodramatic mood as did the realistic sound design by Jonathan Snipes with not only the compelling and foreboding music but the sound of rain. The rain seemed real as we saw and heard it through the windows and it created a very realistic environment for this mystery to unfold.
Taken all together, this production, though contrived, made for a taut, suspenseful and enjoyable evening of theatre.
“Wait Until Dark” at the Geffen Playhouse at 10886 Le Conte runs through November 17th. For tickets and show times, call 310-208-5454 or order on line at www.geffenplayhouse.com Tickets are from $37-$77.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her next classes start in January with registration in December. For more information, contact Audrey firstname.lastname@example.org