Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
Here’s some advice if you plan to see Wait Until Dark at the Chenango River Theatre: Don’t sit in the front row (unless you like close proximity to a crime scene), check the warranty on your ticker and bring a second set of underwear. Yes, it is that scary!
But — if you love a good heart-pounding fright — this show is for you!
Set in 1944 Greenwich Village, Wait Until Dark is the tale of Susan, a blind housewife imperiled by villains hell-bent on finding a doll full of stolen diamonds accidentally stashed in her apartment. As the tension builds, she discovers that her blindness is the key to her survival. She engages in a battle of wits and psychological strength with a trio of greedy, unscrupulous criminals until a climax carried out in total darkness. Try not to shriek too loudly.
The thriller played on Broadway in the 1960s and was the basis for a classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn. CRT’s version is directed by Craig Johnson and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. The original play is by Frederick Knott, an esteemed English playwright, who also authored of Dial M for Murder of Hitchcock movie fame.
At CRT, the thugs are: Mike Boland as a phony policeman, Carlino; Zach Curtis, CRT’s Producing Artistic Director, as the brutish Roat, and Thomas Daniels as Mike. You wouldn’t relish meeting any of them in a dark alley, or indeed, in a dark theater. Boland comes off as supremely creepy, Roat as deranged and menacing. Daniels is half villain, half wannabe hero, who toys with the idea of being Susan’s savior.
Shonita Joshi (Susan) is a South Asian actress who emerged from the Indian film industry colloquially known as Bollywood. With degrees in banking, finance and journalism, she worked at Google for a couple of years before realizing that her love of theater was more than just a hobby – it was a necessity. To put it succinctly, Joshi is a terrific actress, entirely believable as an unsighted woman smart enough to outwit the three sighted con men trying to kill her.
Young actress Emma Jo Whalen makes her CRT debut as Susan’s neighbor, Gloria. She plays a sassy and savvy adolescent to perfection – perhaps because she is one! Whalen will enter eighth grade at Susquehanna Valley this semester Program notes say she got the acting bug making commercials as a youngster.
The cast also includes Vito Longo as Susan’s overprotective husband, Sam. He would love to keep his wife on a short leash, but she soundly rids him of the notion that she needs a minder.
As always with CRT productions, the supporting crew members carry out their tasks cleverly and unobtrusively, letting the play and the players shine.
Hats off to Paige Tripp as stage manager, Dori May Ganisin as assistant director, Julie Duro for lighting design, Barbara Kahl for costume design, Zach Curtis for scenic design, Grason Unzelman as tech director and the electrics crew of Gary Burlew and Chris Nickerson.
IF YOU GO: Wait Until Dark plays Thursdays through Sundays through Sept. 17 at Chenango River Theatre, State Highway 12, near Greene. For times and ticket information, visit www.chenangorivertheatre.org or call 607-656-8499.