By Jonathan Arena; originally published in PHC Herald 2/26/10
Patrick Henry College
Are you afraid of the dark?
You might be after watching Eden Troupe’s latest production.
Ben Guido (center) and his cast and crew from Wait Until Dark
Sophomore Charlotte Blacklock plays Susy, a young wife who has been blind for a year after an accident took her sight and who still struggles with learning how to live in a dark world. The play begins as Susy becomes the target of two con artists working for the mysterious Mr. Roat, who is trying to recover a child’s doll stuffed with bags of heroin that had been given to Susy’s unsuspecting husband Sam. Posing as an old friend of her husband’s, a detective, and other roles, the trio of baddies try to con Susy into finding the doll for them, taking advantage of her blindness one day while her husband is gone.
The play’s unconventional use of darkness both serves to highlight the theme of justice in a dark world and to ratchet up the tension. There are evil characters in this play (or at least one in particular), and the darkness of the stage reflects the evil that can dwell in man’s heart. But the play also tells us that justice can prevail, even in the most hopeless situations.
Blacklock is totally confident in her role, bringing to life every emotion as she struggles to cope with her blindness and improve at everyday tasks with the help of her loving husband Sam. He is played by Zach Simmons who, despite little stage time, gives an endearing performance trying to help his wife become the “world’s champion blind lady.” Near the play’s end, Blacklock’s compelling performance ensures that we feel every bit of panic, every sob, and every scream leading up to the climax.
Jared Spear gives an uncharacteristically sinister performance in the role of the tall and menacing Mr. Roat. And Kim Peterson shines as the incorrigible 12-year-old Gloria, who alternately torments and schemes with Susy. While the cast has occasional trouble delivering lines naturally, overall they are believable and connect with the audience.
The relationships between the characters are particularly convincing. Susy and Gloria, who begin the play at odds with one another, are also charming as they begin to appreciate each other and work together.
The tension and emotions build up so powerfully in the two and a half hour performance leading up to the climax that we need to breathe afterwards, and while the play does give us emotional resolution, there is little time to appreciate what the characters have gone through before the lights go off for the last time.
Guido, who is a fan of the 1967 movie version of the play starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin, said there were a lot of unique challenges to this production.
“Every play is about the dialogue, but in this play the dialogue just builds and builds [the tension],” he said. They worked hard to make sure each scene progressed toward the end of that scene to keep the audience interested.
“The biggest challenge of all has been putting this whole thing together in six weeks,” Guido said.
But he is quite happy with the result.
“This play should prove to be one of the most memorable productions put on by Eden Troupe,” he said.
The dress rehearsal was solid, and compelling enough that this reviewer is going to get himself a ticket and be there when the lights go on—and off—for the real performance.