‘Wait Until Dark’ Took My Breath Away
Like, literally, I forgot to breathe. The darkness, suspense, and eerie moments of Manoa Valley Theatre’s current production of Wait Until Dark made me afraid to breathe or make a single sound. Fresh off its successful premiere on Broadway in 1966, Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott was then turned into an iconic 1967 film staring the sensational Audrey Hepburn, and, subsequently, undoubtedly inspired the recent Don’t Breathe (2016).
The story follows three thieves on a mission to snatch an old doll containing a secret stash of drugs. The doll allegedly resides in the home of Sam (Logan Wilkin) and Susy Hendrix (Lauren Murata). The three thieves break into their home at the start of the show, but are unable to locate the doll. They then hatch a plan that would gain the trust of the lady of the house, Susy, who had suffered a car accident that left her blind. One-by-one, the thieves invade Suzy’s home and life, assuming different identities in order to manipulate her into revealing the location of the doll. As the men’s stories start to become inconsistent, Suzy begins to doubt their authenticity, and, with the help of her young neighbor Gloria (Jodie Kiyokawa), she shows that she’s not as helpless as she appears.
The moments of darkness and silence were some of my favorites. The first time this happens is when Suzy returns home, with the three villains still inside! For almost three minutes, Murata roams the stage and it was as if everyone in the audience was on the edge of their seat, afraid of the outcome, should she realize she’s not alone. In the second act, every light in the theater is struck and the action takes place in complete darkness; it was one of the most thrilling theatrical moments I have ever experienced. The sounds of the cat-and-mouse chase mixed with sudden bursts of light coming from either a match stick or the light emanating from the refrigerator was exciting, beautiful, and terrifying all at the same time.
On the other hand, the acting overall at times felt unnatural and forced, and the delivery of lines lacked variation and intention. Some of the actors fumbled and jumped each other's lines, which is unfortunate on the second week of performances. The thieves--Stu Hirayama, Christopher Denton, and Gregory Suenaga all delivered strong characters. Unfortunately, the chemistry between the three just wasn’t quite there. Suenaga’s portrayal of the titular villain Harry Roat didn’t feel grounded in realty. His transition from a sane and controlled leader of the pack, to an all-out psychotic murderer by the end just wasn’t as believable as I’d like. Murata, carried the show well as its blind damsel-turned-heroine; however, I would have loved to have seen her dive a bit deeper into the character and flesh out the complexities of someone whose lost her vision due to an accident, as opposed to someone who’s born with the disability. I felt the whole show needed to raise the stakes a bit more in order to really play up the tension and suspense.
The set was beautiful. Hats off to DeAnne Kennedy, who created a simple, yet beautifully- rendered red brick apartment. The angle of the set pushed the action forward and every piece of furniture, cabinet, and appliance was used and played with throughout the course of the show. The use of lighting, or should I say “lack thereof” at times, was masterfully designed by Janine Myers. Backlighting the hall to cast eerie shadows on the back wall was so well done, and added a dynamic new level to an already-fleshed out set.
Overall, Wait Until Dark offers a great underdog story of female empowerment. Surprising that it originated in the 1960s, you would’ve expected a male hero to burst through the door just at the nick of time to save the day, but nope. No man was needed in the course of the story to assist in thwarting these men. Proving that regardless of disability, circumstance, or gender, all you need is brains, determination, and courage in order to overcome any challenge set before you. Mahalo to director PeggyAnne Siegmund and the cast and crew of MVT’s Wait Until Dark for providing a thrilling night of theatre.
You have one last weekend to catch this wonderful play during its closing run starting Wednesday May 31st –June 4th. For ticket information visit manoavalleytheatre.com.