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TheatreFest’s “Wait Until Dark” Is a Real Nail-Biter

WaitUntilDarkPOSTER-NCSUTheatreFest2015

Wait Until Dark, now playing in the Kennedy-McIlwee StudioTheatre as part of University Theatre at N.C. State’s TheatreFest 2015, is 1960s thriller about a newlywed, Susy Hendrix, who was recently blinded in an accident. Susy and her husband, Sam, live in a basement flat in New York City, where the sunny Susy is learning the ropes of coping with life as a blind person.

Sam is a busy photographer; and after a shoot in Canada, he innocently befriends a stranger in the airport and agrees to carry a doll back to New York for her. Bad idea, right? Sounds like the start of an episode of “Locked Up Abroad.” This is one of the many instances in the play where our current reality-sensibilities must be suspended to fit into the play’s 1960s fictional sensibilities. Other such instances include Susy’s habit of leaving the door unlocked in her rough neighborhood and her willingness to glibly invite strangers into her home without a second thought. Chalk it up to: “a sign of the times.”

(Pre-show — and between-the-scenes — music, by the way, reinforces the 1960s feel. Does anybody else remember Los Lobos’ “Black Is Black”?)

Sam makes it back to New York; but when the doll goes missing, three threatening men arrive on Sam and Susy’s doorstep to get the doll back. And with Sam out of the home on photo-shoots, the particularly vulnerable Susy is in grave danger. These men develop an elaborate scheme to insinuate themselves into Susy’s life, gain access to the home, and to find the doll — at all costs.

David Jensen provides a fabulous set design for Wait Until Dark. It’s the quintessential 1960s apartment, including the vinyl sofa and the kitschy wall-hangings. Laura Parker and Adrienne McKenzie must have had fun period-costuming this show, including the tinted glasses on the thugs.

Director Mia Self sets a brisk pace for this thriller with comic moments. She milks every ounce of suspense and humor from Frederick Knott’s script.

The acting is also first-class. Whitney Griffin is super as Susy; she easily portrays the difficulties of adjusting to being blind. Griffin allows her eyes to alight on just the right spots — imagine acting without being able to look at your fellow actors! And we had no problem buying-in to the methods Susy uses to navigate her way around the apartment.

Above all, the chemistry between Griffin’s Susy and Gus Allen’s Sam is endearing. As Sam playfully encourages Suzy to push herself forward and sharpen her skills, we got the feeling that he is lovingly “pushing her out of the nest.” As the perky Susy slowly figures out that the people around her are not what they seem, she becomes stronger and more forceful.

Mark Filiaci is the height of scary as Harry Roat, the violent, knife-wielding ring-leader of the thugs who will stop at nothing to get the doll. We discern early on that murder is not out-of-the-question in Roat’s view of the world. Pay attention to the dynamic between him and his fellow con men, and watch for the changes.

But the standout in the acting troupe is 12-year-old Lilly Overton as Gloria, the child who is one of Susy’s neighbor. While some younger actors have difficulty feeling comfortable in their characters’ skins, Overton appeared quite at home as she played the bratty, whiny Gloria to perfection, careening from a child overcome with ennui, to a sweet little helper, to a brat having a screaming, object-throwing temper-tantrum. (Never call her “Four Eyes! “) Her performance was a thing of beauty to watch, and we hope to see her in many more local productions before Hollywood scoops her up!

Wait Until Dark touches on our stereotypes of the visually handicapped and teaches us that the blind can often see better than the rest of us, because things aren’t always what they seem. Watch for how Susy turns her “disability” into an advantage. We guarantee: you will enjoy Wait Until Dark!

SECOND OPINION: June 4th Raleigh, NC Technician (NCSU student newspaper) preview by Rachel Smith: http://www.technicianonline.com/news/article_fa0a5128-0a72-11e5-bacc-03cff0fb8729.html; and May 15th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow preview by Khushbu Gosai: http://artsnownc.com/2015/05/15/preview-nc-states-theatrefest-2015/.

University Theatre at N.C. State presents WAIT UNTIL DARK at 7:30 p.m. June 13, 2 p.m. June 14, 7:30 p.m. June 18-20, 2 p.m. June 21, 7:30 p.m. June 24-27, and 2 p.m. June 28 in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, on the N.C. State University campus, presented as part of TheatreFest 2015. TICKETS: $18 ($4.68 NCSU students and $16 non-NCSU students, seniors 60+, and NCSU faculty and staff). BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase. SHOW: http://www.ncsu.edu/theatre/theatrefest/index.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/112482595752005/. THEATREFEST 2015: http://www.ncsu.edu/theatre/theatrefest/index.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/887032094677067/. PRESENTER: http://www.ncsu.edu/theatre/index.html and https://www.facebook.com/ncstateuniversitytheatre. VENUE: http://www.ncsu.edu/arts/thompson/index.html. MAPS/DIRECTIONS: http://www.ncsu.edu/arts/mapsanddirections.html. OTHER LINKS: Wait Until Dark (1966 Broadway suspense drama): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1587 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=9129 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wait_Until_Dark (Wikipedia). The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books). Study Guide: http://www.therep.org/!userfiles/featured_bar/WaitUntilDarkStudyGuide.pdf (Arkansas Repertory Theatre). Frederick Knott (English playwright and screenwriter, 1916-2002): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=5685 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0461425/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Knott (Wikipedia). Mia Self (Cary director and NCSU assistant director): http://www.ncsu.edu/theatre/staff/ (NCSU staff listing) and https://www.facebook.com/mia.self.31 (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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