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BWW Reviews: WAIT UNTIL DARK Thrills Audiences in the Intimate Second Story Theatre in Hermosa Beach

Unless you do not have your sight, there is no real way you can know what it is like to live in total darkness or how your memory is tested constantly when you have to remember things you cannot write down and read again. Such is the task of every actress playing Susy Hendrix in Frederick Knott's thriller WAIT UNTIL DARK, now presented by Surf City Theatre in the Second Story Theatre, the South Bay's only 99 seat theatre, located within the Hermosa Playhouse building at 710 Pier Avenue, in Hermosa Beach.

While many will remember the 1966 Broadway play starring Lee Remick and Robert Duvall, or the 1967 film starting Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin, director Kathleen Rubin at first wondered how to create her own vision for the iconic play. Wisely she asked her cast to not watch the movie since she wanted them to re-create the characters on their own and not be influenced by the performances or others.

"I realize in order to keep it from being a 'one-note' melodrama, I needed to find humor and irony in the piece, because finding humor in highly tense situations is the way we as human beings often deal with the drama in our real lives," shares Rubin. Most of the humor or irony happens between the characters when trying to get the best of each other. It's the familiar game of one-upmanship that keeps you on the edge of your seat during this thriller as the momentum switches back and forth between characters from moment to moment.

WAIT UNTIL DARK centers on a missing doll carried into the United States by photographer Sam Hendrix (Linden East) for a woman named Lisa he meets at a Canadian airport. When the doll goes missing in Sam and Susy's apartment, three ruthless thugs show up to try and find it, terrorizing Susy in the process.

The play begins as the three thugs meet in the Hendrix apartment to try and work out a plan to corner Susy Hendrix (Keri Blunt), a recently blinded housewife, and convince her to give the doll to them or at least lead them to it. Danny Roque plays Harry Roat, a brutal and sophisticated criminal who coerces two small-time crooks he calls Mike Talman (Matt Harrison, an extraordinarily charming devil) and Sgt. Carlino (Aaron Goddard), into helping him con Susy into giving up the doll. These two ex-cons are desperate for money and after some wrangling on terms after discovering Lisa's dead body in the Hendrix bedroom, they agree to help Roat get the doll which they now know contains high grade heroin.

Susy and her young caretaker neighbor, Gloria (Simone Beres), have a tenuous relationship, often at odds with each other when the teenager refuses to take direction on what Susy needs her to do. Blunt and Beres are well matched, making the battle of wills believable.

Through most of the play Susy is unaware of where the doll is as Gloria saw it when Sam brought it home and wanting it for herself, took it to her apartment without telling anyone. When Susy discovers Gloria has brought the doll back, she asks Gloria to assist in launching a counterplot against the thieves. Of course the teenager jumps at the chance to assist in this new game of cat and mouse. Once they need to work together to overcome the threat faced, Blunt and Beres keep the plot moving at the quick pace this thriller needs to succeed.

The final confrontation scene between Roat and Susy is performed almost entirely in darkness, with Blunt and Roque rising to the challenge of making it believably frightening. Enhancing the scene, as well as the rest of the play, are the lighting and sound effects designed by Michael Thorpe and Michael Grubb, respectively.

While Blunt plays Susy's blindness effectively, there were moments when she seemed to forget to not look at something. For instance, when Mike opens a suitcase with important papers, Blunt leaned over and looked down into the case, something a blind person would not need to do. Certainly she might learn over and smell what was in the case or reach for the contents, but there would be no need for her to look. In another instance, a vacuum cleaner is left in the center of the room and Blunt manages to know just how to maneuver around the temporary obstruction without bumping into it. But the few instances where believability was challenged were far outweighed by Blunt's overwhelming skill at using her ears and nose to know her surroundings rather than her eyesight.


Surf City's WAIT UNTIL DARK final two performances take place on Saturday, November 8 at 8:00pm and Sunday, November 9 at 2:00pm. Tickets are $25 with very limited seating, so call (424) 241-8040 OR email surfcitytheatre@gmail.com right away!

Photos courtesy Surf City Theatre


Matt Harrison, Danny Roque, Aaron Goddard


Keri Blunt


Keri Blunt, Matt Harrison, Simone Beres


Matt Harrison, Aaron Goddard, Danny Roque


Matt Harrison, Keri Blunt


Danny Roque



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From This Author Shari Barrett