Review Roundup: WAIT UNTIL DARK by Repertory Philippines

Review Roundup: WAIT UNTIL DARK by Repertory PhilippinesRepertory Philippines' (Rep) 77th theater season opener, Frederick Knott's classic thriller "Wait Until Dark," will run until Sunday, February 9, at Onstage Theatre in Greenbelt 1, Makati City.

Manila, Philippines, January 28, 2014--Approaching its third weekend at Onstage Theatre, Rep's staging of the 2003 London revival version of Frederick Knott's 1966 classic thriller, "Wait Until Dark," which was originally set in Greenwich Village, New York (The London revival was set in Notting Hill), has been reaping generally favorable reviews.

Below, BroadwayWorld.com has culled excerpts from some of these reviews.

"Wait Until Dark" is one of the few plays penned by English playwright-screenwriter Frederick Knott, best known for his 1952 television play, "Dial M for Murder." "Wait Until Dark's" 1967 film adaptation starred silver screen icon Audrey Hepburn, who was nominated Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her performance in the film.

In both stage and film versions, Knott, who was fond of creating female characters that fall victims to sinister plots, fleshes out the character of Susy Henderson (originally Susy Hendrix), the newly blind wife of traveling photographer Sam Henderson (originally Sam Hendrix), who has brought home a doll, which apparently contains several grams of heroin.

In Rep's production of "Wait Until Dark," Liesl Batucan, a Rep mainstay, plays the visually impaired protagonist. Directed by Miguel Faustmann, Batucan is joined by fellow Rep actors Joel Trinidad (Mike Talman), Robbie Guevara (Sgt. Carlino), Arnel Carrion (Harry Roat, Jr.),Lorenz Martinez (Susy's husband, Sam), and Dani Gana (Gloria).

The production's creative and production teams include Baby Barredo (artistic director), Jethro Joaquin (sound and music design), Faustmann (set design), John Batalla (lighting design), Gidget Tolentino (production management), Gold Soon (stage management), Pol Roxas (sound technician), Pablito Salvador (lighting technician), and Adul Lasin (set execution and scenic artist).

Walter Ang, Philippine Daily Inquirer: Helmed by Faustmann, the ensemble is tight and surpasses the occasionally uneven script, such as Knott allowing Susy to notice certain sounds but completely miss others (reinforced with Faustmann making Susy sometimes face who she's talking to, assuming she can hear the direction where the voice is coming from, and sometimes facing at a tangent.)

Witnessing Susy piecing the puzzle together and turning the tables on these gents makes for a fun show. Faustmann moves things along as briskly as he can and maintains the tension, even if Knott keeps on punctuating it with scene breaks.

Robbie Guevara is funny as the comic relief conman and Joel Trinidad plays the sympathetic conman with a nervous, jumpy energy...

Originally cast to play Susy's husband, Arnel Carrion stepped in to replace Jaime Wilson, who broke a kneecap in rehearsals, as the master plotter. His towering height and wide build have a menacing quality, but perhaps because he'd only had six days to learn the role, the character's oiliness isn't quite sinister yet and comes across as a bit cartoonish (on opening night, at least) instead of chilling.

Paul Henson, Abs-CbnNews.com: Batucan is remarkable as Susy. The role is an acting piece and a challenge for any thespian. Her nuances of the gentle, blind woman are fleshed-out so well that she is able to balance her character's fragility with wit, quiet inner strength and street smarts. However, she imbues her character with a high-pitched speaking voice (perhaps to depict her delicateness) that comes across as slightly irritating at first.

Jamie Wilson was initially cast in the role of the main con man, and Carrion was set to play Susy's husband, but Wilson injured himself during rehearsals and so Carrion was tapped to fill in. One has visions of a more psychological approach to the menacing character of Roat. Carrion, however, takes on a more theatrical attack. His affected physicality and accent get in the way, and we lose him at times as a foil to Batucan's powerhouse Susy.

The playwright goes through great lengths to create an atmosphere of psychological tension. The long-drawn text may actually be working against this intent but, thankfully, the sound and music (designed by Jethro Joaquin) and lights (designed by John Batalla) contribute effectively to punctuate the mood at the right moments.

The play is very inventive in how it utilizes the motif of darkness and light. Darkness, a metaphor for Susy's blindness, is one of the touch points in the play's conflict. What was once seen as a handicap, darkness also became Susy's best ally in trying to outwit her tormentors, and light, in a strange twist of events, even proved to be an adversary.

Rome Jorge, Rappler.com: In a stark play unadorned with music or dance and where both characters and audiences are engulfed by darkness, virtuosity, or the lack of it, is easily exposed. Thankfully, this play shines bright.

With Wait Until Dark, the convincing portrayal of blindness, the verisimilitude of the obstacle course that is the blind protagonist's home to real domestic like, and the precise amount of lighting-or rather the lack of it-are all crucial, riveting audiences in this suspense crime thriller.

Batucan deserves kudos for her superb portrayal of a recently blinded woman who slowly grasps an intricate web of deceit...

So pivotal is lighting to the experience of Wait Until Dark that when the cinematic version was first screened in 1967, movie houses were instructed to dim their lights to the legal minimum and to turn them off one by one as each light bulb in the movie was smashed, climaxing with the theater lit only by the silver screen itself.

Batalla played his part flawlessly in finding the right balance of shadow and light with which the audience to immerse themselves in the life and death struggle of a woman and a murderer in the dark. At the climax of the play, there was the minimum amount of light to see the actors struggling in the dark. Shards of blue light fell strategically on the sinister figure towering in the dark. A bright light cracked open and betrayed a blind woman's gambit. The gleam of a knife pierced the half light.

Faustmann not only directed the play well, he also did a good job of ensuring the set is more detailed and meticulous than the typical Repertory production. The set truly recreated a lived-in home set in middle class London.

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Oliver Oliveros Oliver Oliveros received a master's degree in public relations and corporate communication from New York University while serving as regional director for BroadwayWorld.com, where he accepted an Award for Excellence: Best International Editor in 2013.

For nearly 20 years, Oliver has been handling public relations, corporate communication, and integrated marketing communications for numerous brands (including Pepsi), Broadway shows, Broadway stars, non-profit organizations, and mainstream celebrities.

He is also the editor-in-chief for Fil-Am Who’s Who, a monthly magazine that tells the real-life success stories of Filipino Americans from the New York Tri-State area.


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