“Wait Until Dark” at the Geva Theatre is a tremendous thrill

"Wait Until Dark" at the Geva Theatre. Photo by: Ken Huth

“Wait Until Dark” at the Geva Theatre. Photo by: Ken Huth

Wait Until Dark

Who: Geva Theatre Center

Where: 75 Woodbury Boulevard, Rochester, N.Y. 14607

When: Through Oct. 5

Tickets: $25

Review by Lauren Cavalli

Geva Theatre Center’s absorbing production of “Wait Until Dark” is action packed with menacing con men, a bratty little girl, and a blind heroine in a thriller that was tremendous fun to watch.

Susan (Brooke Parks), who lost her sight after a car accident, and her husband Sam (Remi Sandri) live in the basement apartment of a New York City brownstone. They are unknowingly caught in the middle of a villainous web. Dangerous con men believe they are in possession of a valuable object, which they will go to great lengths to retrieve.

Playwright Frederick Knott originally set the play in the 1960s. While many plays are often updated to a more modern setting, Jeffrey Hatcher, who did the adaptation, embraces the film noir style and sets the play in 1944. He positions it in the dark, anxious, and desperate time of World War II. Sam tells his wife: “the world is a dangerous place.” A foreboding statement that defines the world they are living in where men go to war and come back damaged and the men left behind are sinister opportunists.

"Wait Until Dark" at the Geva Theatre. Photo by: Ken Huth.

“Wait Until Dark” at the Geva Theatre. Photo by: Ken Huth.

Many elements of the film noir style shine through in “Wait Until Dark.” Light becomes a character of its own. Expressionistic and often symbolic, the light in the play constantly casts long shadows that toy with the audience’s emotions.

Brooke Parks was mesmerizing as Susan. She captured the innocence of her character, an overly trusting blind woman who was never too proud to accept the help of others, as well as her tenacity as she fought to survive. She floated across the stage dressed in a bold, royal blue dress – a stark contrast to the beiges, browns, and ecrus that were the colors of most of the set.

Ted Koch’s solid performance as Roat was convincing as the malicious mastermind. His chilling accent was at times reminiscent of Marlon Brando’s character in The Godfather. Roat preys on Susan’s one fear that one day her husband will leave her. He plants a seed of doubt, nourishes it with lies, and watches it grow into a fabricated but believable truth.

Lauren Schaffel exceled in her role as the supremely annoying Gloria. Her first entrance was jarring and her stomping around the stage was enough to give anyone a headache. However, as her bratty character’s relationship with Susan strengthened so does the audience’s fondness of her. An essential character to moving the plot forward, her comic retorts often had the audience laughing out loud.

Craig Bockhorn was well casted as the stereotypical corrupt and bumbling cop, Carlino. Peter Rini, as the overly handsome, overly helpful, charlatan, Mike, was also pleasant to watch.

The climax of the play unfolds at a rapid pace with twists galore. The only disappointment was a clumsy moment where Susan drops a knife she is using to protect herself. The actual knife drop was an obvious toss in the opposite direction than the one she was headed. During a heart-thumping scene it makes the struggle seem not as realistic as it could be. Despite, the awkward toss, the cat and mouse game races on towards an ending that left the audience gasping and the cast receiving a standing ovation.

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