Carlsbad, CA---Yes it’s suspenseful, highly volatile, frighteningly eerie and worth the wait. It’s not Hitchcock but it could very well be. “Wait Until Dark” is up and running in Carlsbad at The New Village Arts Theatre through Oct. 27th and while it’s not the 1966 movie, you will need someone’s arm to squeeze several times during the performance, preferably not your own.
“Wait Until Dark” is a con artists best dream and worse nightmare. Susy Hendrix (Kristin Woodburn) and her photographer husband Sam (Brenton Christopher) live in a small Grenwich Village (walk down) apartment. Susy is recently blind and is still adjusting to her darkness. Gloria, (Abby DeSpain), Susy’s upstairs, ten year old neighbor who helps out with shopping and odds and ends is an on again off again little brat who oft times finds that helping Susy is more of a chance to get back at an adult than being helpful. But don’t be mislead. She’s the sleeper.
Here’s the skinny: At some point in Sam’s travels to Canada, an unknown woman at the airport asked him if he would take a doll back to the States as a favor to her. He agrees. The doll makes it home, but can’t be found anywhere in their apartment. Unbeknownst to him, the ‘doll’ is stuffed with oodles of dollars worth of heroine. In the meantime the ‘woman’ that gave Sam the doll disappeared and is later found dead by her two sidekicks Mike and Carlino, in Susy and Sam’s apartment.
That puts Sam (whom we see very little of) in the middle of a plot to put the blame on him for smuggling drugs unless Susy tells Mike and Carlino where the doll is hidden. As the two small gandsta types try to figure out how, when and where they can get their hands on the doll, divvy up the money and disappear without a trace, they wiggle their way into Susy’s confidence. That’s the best and easiest part of their dream scheme.
Their worst nightmare is coming face to face with Susy who, over the course of the play figures out the scam even after she is befriended by Mike (Eddie Yaroch), deceived into thinking he, Sgt. Carlino (Max Macke), is looking out for her safety, (if she would only confess as to where the doll was), and finally does battle with Harry Roat (Daren Scott), the dead woman’s sadistic partner in crime, who comes into the scene after the fact (or so we think) and the games begin.
Roat loses his patience with the lot of them when he sees they are making no progress with their schemes. When he decides to take matters into his own hands and move the anti up, the fun begins. In between all the red herrings, muss and fuss over phone calls, locked safes and sneaking around trying to find the doll, the mystery unfolds. It’s pretty standard; the stuff of many a thriller and it works.
Fredrick Knott’s “Wait Until Dark” was first produced on Broadway in 1966 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It transferred to three other Theaters’ before it ended its run of 374 performances that starred Lee Remick as Susy. She was later nominated for a Tony for Best Actress in a Play. When it went to London it ran nearly two years.
But it’s the 1967 movie version starring Audrey Hepburn as the blind woman, Suzy and Alan Arkin as psychopath Roat that most will remember. Hepburn was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress. The film ranked tenth on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for it’s climactic scene.
New Village Arts “Wait Until Dark” directed by Kristainne Kurner is also up there on this reviewer’s list of scary performances. While the show is dated and it takes a while for the chills to set in (Just looking at Daren Scotts piercing and sinister eyes and mocking smile as the torments both adversaries and potential enemies is enough for me to back away) there is an element of suspense, that while not completely surprising, is frightening none the less.
As Susy, the blind woman fighting off the evil forces she’s confronted with, Kristin Woodburn is more than convincing. No easy task, when one has vision, to portray one who has none. Her deductions about what she hears, as the three cons wander about her flat dusting off potential fingerprints and opening and closing the Venetian blinds come as a surprise to the convicts but no one else and are persuasive and oft time funny in an odd way.
Daren Scott’s Roat is every bit evil and sadistic, with a bit of madness thrown in. He could ratchet it up a tad although his fight and struggles in pursuit of Susy is a breath holding moment. Eddie Yaroch’s Mike is pretty harmless. One almost gets the feeling that he really does like Susy and would not like to see harm come to her. Max Macke is realistic as the would be detective, Carlino.
All three make interesting convicts in an era where as today’s thugs might have had sawed off shotguns pointed at each other before the questions began. These three bunglers used other means as memory serves; there were knives and brass knuckles and the only one with a handgun was Roat and he bandied and threatened but never used it.
And then there is Gloria. Abby DeSpain is a standout as the petulant ten year old, Gloria, who more often than not is a hindrance to Susy but delivers in the end. DeSpain is confident, capable and convincing (just acting like a normal 10 year old) even though this is her debut at NVA and this particular play is no easy fete for a youngster to pull off. She is right in the middle of the action and whether she is an observer or a participant in the scheme of things, she got it right.
Tim Wallace’s set design is just as I remembered from the movie version and it works perfectly, and why not? Chris Renda’s lighting is most effective in particular when there are no lights, but in general they are overall perfect from the light coming in from the outside to the light in the fridge to the shadows reaching out into the apartment. Justin Lang’s sound adds to the thrill and scare factor and most of Kate Bishop’s costumes come right out of a 60’s playbook.
I don’t know about you, but sitting in a theatre with mostly strangers and the lights go out, leaving you in total darkness, does send a ripple of goose bumps up my arms. Sooooooooo come prepared!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Oct. 27th
Organization: New Village Arts
Production Type: Suspense
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Ticket Prices: Start at $31.00