Review: Beverly Theatre Guild’s Wait Until Dark

Disclaimer: Normally I try not to review shows that I felt was below average (in my eyes), but since someone asked I have to oblige.

Wait Until Dark is probably best known for the 1967 film adaptation of the same name, with Audrey Hepburn as the young blind woman Susy Hendrix. The script itself is a fascinating read with the characters jumping out of the page. However, between myself and several other theatre goers we agree that there has yet to be a community theatre group that effectively creates the suspense necessary for this show.

Unfortunately for the Beverly Theatre Guild, they have not broken that mold. Wait Until Dark is about a recently blind woman, Susy Hendrix, who happens to be in possession of a doll full of drugs. Her husband came in possession of those drugs through a chance encounter with a thief while on flight heading home a few weeks earlier. In the meantime, there are three con-artists who are all gunning for the doll and lure the husband away on a trip of “business” so they could corner the blind woman and steal the doll. With the help of a young neighbor, Susy attempts to even the odds by turning off all the lights in the home… however she neglects one: the refrigerator.

This has all the ingredients for a splendid thriller, so where did it all go wrong?

According to this theater goer it starts with the protagonist as played by Summar Jonas. Though she played blind rather well, her performance lacked conviction, lacked resolve, lacked emotion overall. I simply could not bring myself to feel for her as a character, which is an issue in a suspense / thriller when you cannot bring yourself to root for a character.

The trio of antagonists fared a little better as a trio, but independently largely depends on character.

Richard Bucchi creates the character Mike Talman, Mike being an imaginary friend of Susy’s husband Sam Hendrix. For a while, I believed in the character of Mike as he tries to understand and manipulate Susy into revealing details of her family, life, and most importantly where the doll disappeared to. However, when the tables start to turn and Susy starts to get wise to the possible scheme, Richard crumbles as Mike and characterization becomes less believable, even moreso when Mike is suppose to have a change of heart towards Susy.

Ken Schaefer on the other hand is much more believable as Sgt Carlino, he’s imposing when he needs to be, and bumbling when he realizes that he is stuck in a con that he wanted to back out of. In fact, I would not have minded seeing him in the lead considering how well he plays evil without even trying.

However, when it comes to the primary antagonist, Harry Roat as played by Matthew Walsh, evil doesn’t necessarily come as naturally to him. Working with Matthew in a previous show, he has the chops to do evil well, and with some of the more minor, comedic characters he shines, but as Harry Roat it came off more as a William Shatner wannabe. Whether it is because he’s trying too hard or the director swayed him in that direction is up in the air, however, he lost all appeal to me within the first few minutes of him being on stage… and that is never a good thing.

The theoretical, climatic fight scene between Susy and Harry fell so flat that I found myself getting incredibly bored, just begging for the show to be over so I could leave and attend another show that I knew would entertain me more.

In fact the only other two characters with substance on stage (aside from Ken Schaefer’s Sgt Carlino) included Jason Murphy as the husband Sam Hendrix and Becca Valek as the annoying and spunky young neighbor, Gloria. Jason does a wonderful job of being strong and sarcastic towards Susy, pushing her to be a better and stronger person independently. While on the other hand showing how much he truly cares and loves his wife.

Becca was a joy to watch, being equal parts annoying brat and insecure little girl. She balances Susy well and is a pleasure to watch. This is a young lady that I can’t wait til see what happens as she ages and matures over time.

Even though other patrons admitted to being scared or frightened during the show, I supposed I have gotten spoiled by other groups to find this to be lacking. However, whether this is the fault of the director, actors, group as a whole remains to be seen. Considering that this is the second production I saw at the Beverly Theatre Guild that fell flat to me (the other also being a suspense / thriller), I am going to withhold judgment on the group as a whole.

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