Click here to read my complete Talkin' Broadway review of Wait Until Dark at Mesa Encore Theatre- highlights below.
Playwright Frederick Knott has had a fairly good year in the Phoenix community theatre world this season, with his two famous thrillers receiving impressive productions. After a suspenseful production of Dial M For Murder at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale a few months back, now comes an equally chilling Wait Until Dark as the last show of the season in Mesa Encore Theatre's inaugural "Black Box on Brown" series of plays.
Set in a basement apartment in 1960s Greenwich Village,Wait Until Dark is the story of blind Susy Hendrix and her unfortunate encounter with three criminals. Susy's husband Sam innocently brought a doll to New York from Canada as a favor for a woman he met at the airport. The woman said the doll was for a sick girl and that someone would come to his apartment to pick it up. Sam and Susy have no idea that the doll is stuffed with heroin; that the person who was picking up the doll has been murdered; or that a sociopathic killer and two small time, recently paroled, con artists are planning to do whatever necessary to get the doll. Disguising themselves as various, seemingly harmless characters, the three men work their way into Susy's apartment, searching for the doll, literally right in front of her. Knott deftly uses Susy's blindness as a perfect theatrical conceit to raise the chills several notches, since the audience sees the deceitful and horrific events unfolding that Susy can not. Even with a few holes in the plot, and situations that seem unfathomable today (including Sam unquestionably transporting the doll across the border for someone he's just met and Susy's continual habit of letting strangers through her door) the play still makes for a gripping theatrical endeavor.
The Mesa Encore cast is up to the challenges, with an impressive Emily Lynne Baker as Susy. She easily gets across a woman who is somewhat demure at first, but, after realizing what is going on around her, ratchets up her defenses so as not to become a victim herself. Since Susy has only been blind for a year, due to an accident, and is still learning how to deal with her condition, it makes sense that Baker plays her as a bit frantic. Baker also realistically never strays from the blank gaze she continually casts to represent Susy's blindness.
While both of Knott's plays are probably better known for their screen adaptations, experiencing them live, with the thrilling events unfolding in front of you, is something that can't be matched on the big screen. Even with a few small missteps, there are still plenty of jolts, thrills and suspense, along with a fairly impressive cast in the Mesa Encore Theatre's production of Wait Until Dark.
Wait Until Dark runs through May 10th, 2014, with performances at the Mesa Encore Theatre's Black Box on Brown theatre located at 318 E Brown Rd #101, Mesa, AZ 85201. To order tickets, and for information on upcoming productions at Mesa Encore Theatre visit mesaencoretheatre.com.