REVIEW: Gripping “Wait Until Dark” at Covedale

By Doug Iden

Wait Until Dark is a gripping dark thriller awaiting you at Covedale. Imagine if you are a blind woman, alone in your apartment and in danger of being robbed and possibly killed.  How do you defend yourself?

PLOT AND CHARACTERS

Based upon a play by Frederick Knott and a subsequent movie starring Audrey Hepburn, Wait Until Dark (Covedale’s version) immediately grabs you by the throat and does not release the tension until the final curtain.  As in many Hitchcockian suspense movies, the structure of the play is tight and taut.  Early on we meet the bad guy Harry Roat (Geoff Simmons) and his confederate Sergeant Carlino (Rhys Boatwright) who are in an apartment looking for a doll which contains something valuable (the MacGuffin).  We also hear that they have killed another conspirator and left her body in the apartment.  These are scary guys.

Next, we meet a recently blinded woman, Susan Hendrix (played beautifully by Anna Hazard) and eventually her husband Sam (Dan Robertson).  Susan immediately senses that something is amiss but does not know what.  Her blindness has enhanced her other senses which, along with her intelligence, inciteful quick wittedness, and strong survival instincts, enables her to react to an increasingly dire situation.  In the end, she uses her lack of sight to her advantage.

Sam has enlisted an upstairs teenager Gloria (newcomer Sophie Stockton) to help Susan but, at first, this is a testy relationship.  Gloria acts like a spoiled brat and Susan resents being treated as a victim, incapable of taking care of herself. The relationship matures as the story progresses.

Lieutenant Mike Talman, an old army buddy of her husband played by Douglas Fries, stops by to say hello to his old friend and quickly becomes an ally to Susan.   Together, they try to make sense of an increasingly confusing and alarming situation.  I cannot shed any more light on the plot except to say that it is gripping, twisty and continues to layer on the tension.

Covedale's "Wait Until Dark" Photo provided.
Covedale’s “Wait Until Dark.” Photo provided.

PLAY STRUCTURE

The structure is classic suspense where the audience has information which the characters do not.  In this case, we know from the opening minutes who the bad guys are and their intentions but Susan is kept in the dark (literally).  This heightens the anxiety in the audience about the potential danger to the heroine.  On the other hand, the plot has twists and turns and a few red herrings which continually surprises and confounds the audience.

PRODUCTION

Director Corrie Danieley has crafted a seamless production which continues to build the suspense and illuminate the twists.  Brett Bowling’s set design is important in propelling the plot.  Susan’s home is a basement apartment with a walk-in area before the door which is visible to the audience.  This is covered with venetian blinds which have significance.  In the apartment, props include a table, kitchen chairs, living room chairs and kitchen appliances including a refrigerator which is very significant.  Lighting by Denny Reed almost becomes a character of its own.  The lighting (or lack thereof) includes table lamps, outside lights in the alcove and, critically, a light in the refrigerator.  The absence or presence of light is crucial.  Sound design by Jamie Steele accentuates frequent telephone calls and the musical sound from the doll.  The 1950’s costumes are designed by June Hill and Jesselee Whitson.

ACTORS

Anna Hazard is excellent as Susan.  She is believable as a blind person, sympathetic as a character but also shines as a clever and intelligent survivor.  She falls frequently throughout the show which alerts her to the fact that others have been in her space and rearranged the carefully placed furniture.  Geoff Simmons is sufficiently smarmy as the psychopath (Harry Roat) and Boatwright negotiates the line between being a policeman and unconvincing enough to lead Susan to suspect him.  Douglas Fries as amiable as Sam’s friend and Robertson portrays the indulgent but often absent husband.  Stockton (as Gloria) sustains the character arc from self-absorbed teenager to an able accomplice to Susan.

Wait until Dark at Covedale
Covedale’s “Wait Until Dark.” Photo provided.

OVERALL

This is a play I have been looking forward to and this production was excellent.  The key is Hazard’s portrayal of Susan as we see her cleverly deduce the criminality and then aggressively plan her defense.  The set design and especially Reed’s lighting design accentuate the suspense.  The supporting actors are very good.  This is a very tight, suspenseful  production that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat.

So, do not Wait until Dark but go the Dark Side and savor an enlightening experience at the Covedale Theater running through February 18.  Get tickets HERE. Covedale’s next production is the delightfully zany Mel Brook’s theatrical satire The Producers.