REVIEW: Avon Players’ ‘Wait Until Dark’ Electrifies with Intensity and Intrigue

Susy Hendrix: helpless victim or courageous heroine? That is the question the audience must ask as the action unfolds in Avon Players’ current production of Wait Until Dark. A thriller offering edge-of-your-seat anticipation that slowly builds, then explodes in the final scene.

Carlino (Kyle Kiesler), Talman (Chris Polhill) and Roat (Steve Grady) plot to steal an important object.

Photo courtesy of Avon Players Theatre Facebook page.

Wait Until Dark was written by Frederick Knott and first performed on Broadway in 1966. Many will be familiar with the film version released in 1967 starring Audrey Hepburn in the role of Susy Hendrix and Alan Arkin as Harry Roat, Jr. The bulk of the action takes place over a 48-hour period in a cramped basement apartment in Greenwich Village. The compact space lends to a claustrophobic feeling that adds urgency to the action.

The plot centers around a doll – a very special doll that Roat (Steve Grady, The Mousetrap) is desperate to get his hands on. So desperate that he blackmails two con men (who end up having consciences) Talman (Chris Polhill) and Carlino (Kyle Kiesler) into helping him. This is the Avon Players debut for Kiesler and Polhill, and given how at home they looked on stage, I hope we will be seeing more of both men in the future. Roat (who is smarmy and lacking a moral compass) has traced the doll to an apartment inhabited by Sam Hendrix (Nick Frederick, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and his wife Susy (Marie Burchi), who is blind. Together the three men work to get Sam out of the apartment and attempt to trick Susy into helping them find the doll. Talman pretends to be an old Marine buddy of Sam’s and Carlino assumes the role of a police sergeant. For his role as Roat, Grady wears many hats, or rather wigs throughout the performance. At first, Susy has no trouble believing the tale of deceit and distraction being spun for her, but soon she begins making observations that have the nefarious trio second guessing whether she knows more than she’s letting on. For instance, she can tell when the men are flipping the blinds to signal one another and even when Carlino is dusting (in a hapless attempt to remove his fingerprints). Each man makes the mistake in assuming just because she’s blind she’s easily deceived. A miscalculation that will cost them dearly in the end.

Will Susy (Marie Burchi) be able to match wits with Roat (Steve Grady)?

Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

An unexpected treat amidst the chaos is a young girl named Gloria (Sienna Berkseth in her first non-youth Avon role). Gloria is Susy’s precocious neighbor who often does her grocery shopping for her. While their relationship is strained at first, Gloria ends up as Susy’s trusted ally. Gloria also has a little secret, which once brought to light sets into motion the climax of the play. And while this is most certainly a suspense-filled thriller, watching Berseth and Burchi interact with each other brought a level of humanness and humor that helped balance some of the heavier moments. If I had to sum up Marie Burchi’s portrayal of Susy in two words, I would choose commanding and captivating. To pretend you are blind you have to be consistent and convincing. Burchi was both. I know because I watched very closely as she moved around the set and interacted with the other actors. With a movie, the action can be stopped to give the actress another chance to perfect a look or line. In live theatre you’re working without a net, so to speak and Burchi proved that she’s perfectly comfortable taking chances and committing to the craft. And I think this observation provides the perfect transition to talk about an article I came across recently titled, “Please Stop Looking Down on Community Theatre.” The author implores people to understand that being involved in community theatre isn’t, “Hey, let’s do a show, just for the fun of it!” Rather, it is a passion, coupled with a lot of personal time given up for no monetary return. Take Burchi for example. When she isn’t on stage, she works as a Test Engineer for a global vehicle manufacturer. And David Reynolds, the director of this production has worked in film (The Hills Have Eyes 2) and television (Arrested Development and Firefly). The breadth of his experience is clearly evident in the final result of this high-quality production. Having a vibrant community theatre matters and we should all do what we can to support it and the hardworking efforts of those involved. Because the opening night performance I saw was excellent. I was completely captivated with what was happening on the stage and I found myself not wanting to miss even the tiniest detail. This is a show that you can be fully invested in and be rewarded for your efforts.

So, does Susy end up being helpless or courageous? I think Gloria answers it best: “Leave her alone. She can manage by herself.” Yes. Yes, she can. And you should make it a priority to see this cunning display of cat-and-mouse with a twist that will take you by surprise.

The show runs just over two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Please note that a water-based, non-toxic fog is used during the performance. Tickets for all shows are $18. Call 248-608-9077 for tickets or order online at www.AvonPlayers.org. Group rates are available by calling the box office. “Like” Avon Players Theatre on Facebook for special offers on tickets. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. All seats are reserved.

Catch one of the remaining performances:

Saturday, March 9         8:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 10         2:00 p.m.

Friday, March 15           8:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 16       8:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 17         2:00 p.m.

Friday, March 22           8:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 23       8:00 p.m.

About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

Speak Your Mind

*