Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WAIT UNTIL DARK underwhelming at Great Lakes Theater

Over the last number of years Great Lakes Theater has cobbled together seasons consisting of Shakespearean classics, musicals and mystery plays.  The combination has proven to be very successful, with many award winning productions and audience pleasing shows being produced.

Presently at GLT is Frederick Knox’s Wait Until Dark, the stage version of the 1967 film of the same title, whose climactic scene has been ranked as tenth on the list of Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments.”

The melodramatic story centers on the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam and Susy Hendrix.  She is blind, which turns out to be a key ingredient of the script. 

While on an assignment, Sam was persuaded by a woman to transport a doll across the Canadian border into the United States.  He is unaware that packets of heroin have been sewn into the toy. 

A con man and his ex-convict associates connive their way into the Hendrix apartment with the intent of finding the doll.  A deadly game of cat and mouse develops in which Susy’s blindness, the help of a young neighbor, a couple of murders, and some convoluted plot twists carry the play to a dramatic ending.

The play, with a cast of Robert Duvall and Lee Remick, who was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress, ran on Broadway for 374 performances in 1966.

The GLT production, part of its 55th consecutive season, opens with tense music which sets a proper mood for what should be coming. 

Unfortunately, in this era of visually dynamic movies and hyped television crime shows, the dated and often contrived script does not grab and hold attention as it did in the 60s. 

The first act is long and often tedious, overly slow in its development.  The second act, which does picks up the pace, fails to have the startling effect that the ending deserves. 

There is too much that doesn’t ring true in the production.  Whether this is result of Joseph Hanreddy’s direction, the acting, or the difficult to stage climactic scene, the overall effect is not compelling.

Scott Bradley’s set is appropriate, Rick Martin’s lighting, which is the key to the effectiveness of the last scene, has some flaws, and the sound effects by Lindsay Jones help develop the right mood.

The cast, Nick Steen (Mike Talman), David Anthony Smith (Sgt. Carlino), Arthur Hanket (Harry Roat, Jr), Jodi Dominick (Susy Hendrix), Jonathan Dyrud (Sam Hendrix), Elise Pakiela (Gloria), Laura Welsch Berg and Lynn Robert Berg (policepersons) are all quite acceptable in their portrayals.

Capsule judgement:  Wait Until Dark continues the GLT tradition of producing a mystery as part of its season offerings.  Those who love murder mysteries may well be enthused, but both script and production do not reach the level of effectiveness of previous shows of this genre.

Wait Until Dark runs through March 12, 2017 at the Hanna Theatre.  For tickets: 216-664-6064 or www.greatlakestheater.org