Bww Review: FAC's WAIT UNTIL DARK an Engrossing Thriller
Vampires, slasher killers, and paranormal activity are all well and good, but for my money nothing beats the chills of a good suspense story. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown are immensely engrossing narrative devices, compelling you to follow along even as you dread what might come next. So Wait Until Dark is, for me, the ideal Halloween experience: a tense, unsettling thriller rooted in relatable fears and all-too-human monsters.
The play is frightful good time in the mold of an Alfred Hitchcock film-indeed, writer Frederick Knott also penned Hitch's classic Dial M For Murder. (The production at the Fine Arts Center uses Jeffrey Hatcher's revised 2013 script, which shifts the action to the late World War II era and drops a couple f-bombs into the dialogue.) It even evolves around the sort of plot element that Hitchcock popularly defined as a "McGuffin," an object around which the entire story resolves but which serves no real function apart from motivation-in this case, a contraband-stuffed doll that criminals have tracked to the apartment of recently blinded Susan Hendrix (Jessica Weaver). What is in the doll is immaterial (it isn't revealed until the ending, and Hatcher has switched it from the Knott original); all that matters is that Roat (a wonderfully vicious Michael Lee) and his accomplices are willing to go to any lengths to get it back.
In a lesser story, the McGuffin would be a tired cliché, but Wait Until Dark employs it brilliantly as it sets the stage for a mesmerizing game of psychological cat-and-mouse. Weaver grounds the story as Susan, frustrated yet resolute in the face of her handicap and struggling to maintain control of her situation as her fear and suspicion mounts despite every attempt to deceive her. Roat and small-time con Carlino (Micah Speirs) keep trying to pull the wool over Susan's eyes (so to speak) while a friend of her husband (Adam Laupus) appears as a well-timed Good Samaritan-or does he? Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Mallory Hybl pops in and out memorably as the troubled but well-meaning neighbor girl who assists Susan in several ways.
The early maneuvering is threaded with black comedy and is almost farcical in places-change the key, and this could be another Arsenic and Old Lace-but it gets distinctly less funny as the stakes are raised. The climax, where Susan levels the playing field by plunging her home into darkness, is magnificently staged and drew many horrified shrieks from unsuspecting audience members. So whether you're into jump scares or slow-building tension, this show has something to tingle your spine.
WAIT UNTIL DARK plays at the Fine Arts Center now through November 1st, Thursdays through Fridays at 7:30pm (with the exception of October 24th, which will precede FAC's Dark Matter Bash at 5pm) and Sunday matinees at 2pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-634-5581 or visit csfineartscenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kearney TDC Photography