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Review: Public Theatre Opens with Finely Tuned WAIT UNTIL DARK

Lewiston's Public Theatre opened its twenty-fifth season with a finely tuned, engrossing production of Frederick Knott's classic thriller, Wait Until Dark. Presented in a well-crafted adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher which moves the action to the film noir world of the 1940s and directed by Janet Mitchko, this six-character drama retains all the spine-tingling creepiness of both the film and original stage versions.

Much of the credit goes to Mitchko, who strikes just the right pace and tone, building tension ever so slowly, starting with a deceptively innocuous first act that gradually escalates into sheer terror, along the way allowing for punctuating moments of nervous laughter.

The cast is uniformly excellent with the three criminals skillfully playing the dramatic irony of the situation perfectly. Jon Krupp is a frightening, psychotic presence as Roat, morphing from cold-blooded killer to the feigned pose of a distraught husband to a murderous maniac in a performance that is almost reptilian in its chameleon spookiness. Michael Serratore makes a perfect Carlino, a Damon Runyonesque gangster, complete with accent and physical mannerisms, while Jason Cadieux is most convincing as Mike, who not only pretends to be the "nice guy," but ultimately finds that there is some of that compassion in himself after all. Rounding out the male cast is Jon L. Peacock as the sympathetic husband Sam.

Amy Hutchins as the blind, but resourceful Susan, gives a powerful performance, never descending into self-pity or melodramatics, she allows the audience to feel her abject terror as well as her great inner strength. As the teenage upstairs neighbor Gloria, Ella S.G. Werner turns in a compellingly fresh interpretation of the brash and damaged young girl.

The unit set by Jennifer B. Madigan evokes the gloomy, spare Greenwich Village basement apartment to perfection and supplies all the devices needed by the action. Bart Garvey's lighting design solves the all-important chiaroscuro of the drama, using dim lighting, virtually complete blackouts and starling moments of contrast, while Joan Larkins Mather supplies the period costumes with the obligatory trench coats prominent.

Despite the familiarity of the play and the movie, the Public's audience found itself completely engaged in the drama and swept along by the catharsis of the plot. Wait Until Dark is a welcome break from the long list of comedies this theatre programs, and the entire company acquits itself brilliantly.

Photo courtesy Public Theatre

Wait Until Dark runs from October 16-25, 2015 at the Public Theatre, 31 Maple Street, Lewiston, ME 04240 207-782-3200

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