It’s not the dark we should fear, but the unknown: the creaking of the stairs when no one’s there, the strange man who enters your life at just the right time, an odd toy, a child’s doll whose importance you cannot even fathom to ascertain.
This is what Susan Hendrix fears. The darkness has become her friend since she lost her vision a year and a half ago. However, what she’s lost in sight, she’s gained in common sense and a heightening of her other physical senses.
Alison Pill (“The Newsroom,” Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) stars as our blind heroine, Susan, in "Wait Until Dark." Susan is neither defined nor confined by her affliction. She isn’t reckless either and has cultivated her keener senses to get around the house and greater Greenwich Village where she lives with her husband Sam (Matt McTighe) in a relatively meager existence -- he as a photographer and she as a homemaker. The young girl living above them, Gloria (Brighid Fleming), comes down every once in a while to check in on her and help her with the simple tasks of maintaining the house.
However, the couple's little world slowly and meticulously unravels when Sam, by total coincidence, meets a stranger on a train who hides precious cargo in his luggage. He unknowingly brings it home with him, triggering a murder and a rather ingenious plot by two crooks to find the prize hidden somewhere in the Hendrix’s apartment.
Based on Frederick Knott’s play, "Wait Until Dark" was adapted into a film in 1967 starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. The production, going on now through Nov. 17 at the Geffen Playhouse, is a less contemporary, albeit fresher, adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher who has pushed the setting from the 1960s back to WWII. He has also cleverly and appropriately tightened and clarified Knott’s script, both in dialogue and plot, giving Matt Shakman an easier time in the director’s chair.
Rod McLachlan stars at the bumbling fool of a cop-turned-wrongdoer Carlino, while Adam Stein gives a menacing, though somewhat showy, performance as Roat, the pernicious brains behind the operation. Mather Zickel stars as the charming and increasingly elusive character of Mike, one of Sam’s old war buddies with a hidden agenda. All three deliver their lines with care and effect, but it is Pill who steals the stage. Even in the moments when she falls clumsily and hard to the ground, she commits wholeheartedly and without waiver. Her timing is impeccable and her talent is undeniable.
Fleming should also be commended for her performance, which gives Pill tremendous room to play authentically.
"Wait Until Dark" is a chilling thriller, one that won’t leave you wishing it to end. That is, until the final act when all goes dark. Maybe then the dread that fills you will make you beg for the lights to shine brightly once more...