Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Wait Until Dark"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Wait Until Dark"

by Frederick Knott
Directed by Leonard Foglia

Set Design by Michael McGarty
Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt
Costume Design by David C. Woolard
Sound Design by Darron L. West
Production Stage Manager Michael Brunner

Lisa/Police Officer......Diane LaMar
Mike Talman.............Stephen Lang
Sgt. Carlino...Juan Carlos Hernandez
Harry Roat.........Quentin Tarantino
Suzy Hendrix............Marisa Tomei
Sam Hendrix.............James Whalen
Gloria...................Imani Parks
Police Officer.........Richie Coster

Frederick Knott's "Wait Until Dark" is older than some of the actors playing in it, but it is a thriller for thinkers, and the real thrill is watching characters' minds work. Perhaps that is why Quentin Tarantino wanted to play a crafty, menacing scam-artist thug opposite Marisa Tomei --- the lone, blind menace-ee --- in what will be a Broadway debut for both of them. Directed by Leonard Foglia (familiar here for his work at The Huntington and Trinity), they and six friends prove live theater can keep an audience guessing and flinching on the edges of their seats as easily as any movie made today.

At least I suspect so. I asked for balcony seats, but I had to wait so long for my retirement check they were all long gone, and all I could get was the stage-right front-row center (Seat CA 1X A 105) for $62.50. Ever sit in the Very First Row of a movie, where you rare back and stare straight up at tall, thin figures? Same deal. Only here, half the actors half the time disappeared from their waists down, and some crucial action up-stage on the floor was invisible. Sit five or ten rows back --- if you can get any seats at all. Tickets are Hot!

The scam here is that an ex-marine photographer was conned into bringing home a doll with a music-box in her tummy to elude customs coming from Montreal; the doll's tummy also hiding some very small, very pure amounts of very expensive drugs. Neither he nor his beautiful, blind young wife knows the real story, and she is alone in a Lower East Side basement apartment in a thunderstorm. (Guess who plays Suzy Hendrix? Right!)

Two scam-artists (Stephen Lang & Juan Carols Hernandez) pretending to be an old war-buddy and a police sergeant work a complicated story, but well-rehearsed though they are they don't think on their feet fast enough, and it eventually becomes necessary for their Control, a very detail-conscious, ruthless intimidater, using threats of torture and fire, to face down one worried blind woman with a knife in his hand. (Guess who plays Harry Roat? Right!)

Michael McGarty's totally realistic set establishes a level of reality here that makes every human confrontation that much more personal and compelling. This isn't cinema, and nothing prevented the action or the actors from tumbling into my lap save an invisible fourth wall. And every illusion of actuality needed, from the first loud street-noises of Darron L. West's overture to the wet macintoshes to a believable ash-tray fire or rain-drenched windows or the problems and awarenesses of total blindness are, all, totally naturalistic.

Then the actors begin spinning their stories, and minds on all sides --- and in the audience --- begin to click. Who knows what, who believes what, who realizes what when, is the focus of attention here. Director and actors totally control this focus throughout, so you can almost hear, in the silence, an entire sold-out audience thinking. It's a fascinating sound.

I couldn't have given away all the subtle secrets that if known would spoil the show, not in a review five times as long. There's a kid from upstairs (Imani Parks) who has pivotal details all her own --- when she's not defending her bratty dignity or resenting her four-eyed immaturity. There's a scene-shift so quick you'd swear it was a jump-cut. There's a whole prelude with a flash-light that will knock you out of your chair.

But if somene offers you the privilege of seeing Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino from the very first row --- hold out for first-balcony, even if you have to take a different date. Sitting in the first row means paying $62.50 for partially-obstructed seats.


"Wait Until Dark" (till 22 March)
246 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide