REVIEW WRITTEN BY NOAH BURD
For 21st Century Media
Two conmen recently released from prison are coerced into helping a mysterious criminal recover a missing doll full of heroin from a Greenwich Village apartment. The mark doesn’t seem so hard. The photographer husband Sam is away; his wife Susy is blind. While one of the conmen (Dan Ferry) pretends to be an old friend of her husband and drops in on the lone Susy, the other (Jay Fletcher) impersonates a police officer. They conspire to get the doll back without resorting to physical intimidation, but when the plot goes awry, the threat of violence becomes all too real.
Though adapted as a film starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin, “Wait Until Dark,” now playing at DCP Theatre, captures a kind of horror that can best be done on the stage. While I’ve seen a number of thrillers, I’ve rarely if ever felt scared at a live show, as I did in the play’s pitch-black finale. Much of that accomplishment can be traced to Frederick Knott’s fine script and Caris Baliles’s tight direction. This is a play that has to keep a lot of balls in the air at once — from the lighting and quite fine 1960s period set, to the tough guy shenanigans of the conmen.
In a story defined by its deception, Baliles makes the world feel highly credible.
Written in a time when so many theater housewives were characterized with bland clichés, “Wait Until Dark” gives us a heroine who is remarkably subtle. She is blind, yet sensing; vulnerable, yet capable and resourceful. Her husband insists she learn to be self-sufficient, yet there is something controlling about his insistence on how she manages the housework and do every task without help that undoubtedly must affect her. Casey Gerhart is excellent in the role, showing a great deal of range as she plays with these ambiguities. When Suzy becomes suddenly frantic over something insignificant or when she fumes at the little girl who lives upstairs, you empathize. Just as importantly, you believe her when she feels her way along the walls, or misses eye contact, because Gerhart’s understated physicality seems so absolutely felt, so distant from the mimicry or slapstick it could have easily become.
The supporting cast is also very good. Ferry has an affability that makes his deception seem somehow gentle, while Fletcher provides a comic counterpoint to the otherwise taut action of the show. Rounding out the principals, Steven Zanine gives a chilling turn as the mastermind of the operation.
The technical precision, gripping story, and strong performances make for a killer production. With both jump-out-of-your-seat moments and the slow building tension of a good heist story, “Wait Until Dark” remains unpredictable nearly 50 years after it was first performed.
IF YOU GO
What: “Wait Until Dark”
Where: DCP Theatre, 795 Ridge Road, Lower Salford.
When: Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Now through Nov. 16. Closing weekend performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Nov. 20–22 at 8 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are available for $15 at the door or online at www.dcptheatre.com; senior citizens and students are $13, and groups of 10 or more can contact the box office at (215) 234-0966.
Info.: Additional information is available at www.dcptheatre.com.