The current production of the Mansfield Music & Arts Society is Frederick Knott's "Wait Until Dark". The mystery thriller's heroine is Susy Hendrix, a blind Greenwich Village housewife who becomes the target of three thugs searching for the heroin hidden in a doll that her husband unwittingly transported from Canada as a favor to a woman who has since been murdered. The trio tries to convince Susy her spouse has been implicated in the crime and the only way to protect him is to surrender the doll. More murder and mayhem ensue when she refuses, with the stage lights turned off for the final scene when Susy levels the playing field by plunging her apartment into total darkness. Susy is helped by Gloria, her neighbor, a 9 year old girl who runs errands for Susy and her husband, Sam. Directors Judi Kotta and Cindy McCarron breathe new life into this 1960's show with their spine tingling music and perfect casting. Throw in two policemen who appear at the end of the show and you have the makings of a taut well acted and directed piece of theatre that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
The excellent 1960's Greenwich Village apartment set is by Gary Poholek who built a staircase and windows with blinds which are used frequently during the show. Atia DeRosa-Gravely is outstanding as Susy, the blind woman. Her portrayal is perfect, making you believe she can't see throughout the entire show even during scene changes. From all her lines, their delivery and the emotions behind them blend together splendidly. Atia listens intently to the other performers and her reactions to them are wonderful to behold as are her mannerisms and body language. The last scene is spine tingling and will have you want to jump out of your seat at its powerful impact. A dynamite performance by this young actress will have you cheering her at the curtain call. Brava, Atia on a job very well done.
The hoodlums are wonderful in their roles, too. The sociopath murderer Mr. Roat is played by Bruce Church who earns many boos at the curtain call for his awesome portrayal. He has the audience quivering in fright with his venomous delivery of his lines and his despicable treatment of a blind woman. Bruce uses wonderful voices as this evil character as he changes from an old man into his son. His two henchmen, Mike Tallman (Michael Duarte) and Sgt. Carlino (Greg Barbon) are excellent as the greedy ex-cons. Michael handles the transition of the character's final realization of not harming a blind woman, going from cad to nicer guy which wins him the sympathy of the audience. Greg makes Carlino, the dimwitted con into a tough and sinister figure always threatening Susy. His wiping of the fingerprints around the apartment is one of the funniest moments in the show. All three actors help build the needed tension and suspense to pull off this thriller.
9 year old Sarah Mullahy plays Gloria, who at first is a spoiled brat but eventually becomes Susy's strongest support in her time of need. She gets upset with Susy when she calls her four-eyes, throwing unbreakables around the apartment. Sarah does a wonderful job in this role. Rounding out this cast is Ted VanderEls as Sam Hendrix, Susy's caring, perfectionist photographer husband who has a dark room set up in the apartment and Matthew Trowbridge and Daniel Gravely as the cops who show up at the end of the show. (Daniel is Atia's real life husband and their beautiful son, AJ is now 2 and a half years old.) Stage manager Linda Strano keeps things running smoothly all night long with her assistant stage manager, John Meyer. Light design is by Ken Butler and the sound design is by Evan Myers with sound technicians Liz Ryan and Michelle Monti. Brava to Judi and Cindy for pulling off this suspenseful show so wonderfully. Run, do not walk to this talented cast perform in "Wait Until Dark".