“Wait Until Dark” is a suggestively scary title all by itself – but it’s nothing compared to Frederick Knott’s script, which makes blind housewife Susy Hendrix (Kristin Woodburn) the center of a plot involving three desperate gunmen in search of a doll into which thousands of dollars’ worth of heroin has been sewn.
Nobody’s home when caper mastermind Harry Roat (Daren Scott) and the colleagues he’s recruited – Mike Talman (Eddie Yaroch) and a big bruiser dubbed “Sergeant” Carlino (Max Macke), both recently sprung from the pen – break into the Greenwich Village apartment to look for the doll.
But they don’t find it, and Roat decides this won’t be just a point-guns-and-threaten case. Hoping to get the doll from Susy voluntarily rather than confronting husband Sam (Brenon Christofer), he sends Mike Talman (Eddie Yaroch), the most benign-looking of the villains, to gain Susy’s confidence with a lie that he and Sam are old army buddies.
Then he tells her something true – that Sam brought the doll home from a recent trip at the behest of a woman who was later killed, intimating that Sam might be implicated in drug smuggling if she doesn’t get rid of the evidence.
The question is, where is the doll now?
Susy is blind -- and scared -- but she isn’t stupid. She soon figures out the con and makes her own plans to foil the plot.
The cat-and-mouse game involves one other character – nine-year-old Gloria (Abby DeSpain) from the upstairs apartment, hired by Sam to help Susy with shopping and other chores. Susy can’t stand the kid, but Sam insists, and despite their testy relationship, Gloria will turn out to be useful.
Director Kristianne Kurner keeps the direction taut and ratchets up the tension bit by bit. She has a great cast to work with – Yaroch convincing as he gains Susy’s confidence; Macke is a consistently scary presence; Scott the soft-spoken organizer with threat behind every word.
DeSpain is a find as the bratty Gloria, holding her own with her older and more experienced colleagues.
But the real star of this show (which takes place on Tim Wallace’s fine apartment set) is fear, wonderfully evoked by Chris Renda’s lighting (and darkness) design. And Justin Lang’s sound design adds ominous thuds and noises at the right times.
“Wait Until Dark,” first produced onstage in 1966, became the classic film a year later. Here’s your chance to see the original.
“Wait Until Dark” plays through Oct. 27 at New Village Arts, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday at 3 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets: (760) 433-3245 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.