By Paul Love
From the moment The Capitol Theatre Ensemble’s production of Wait Until Dark begins, we know something bad is going on. A prowler searches a deserted apartment at night, with only a flashlight to light his way. Then another, seemingly more dangerous, criminal shows up and that sense of dread becomes downright sinister. Based on Frederick Knott’s 1966 play (famously adapted for film the following year), Wait Until Dark is a story of a blind woman who is terrorized by criminals who are after a very lucrative item, and who will stop at nothing to acquire it.
The aforementioned blind woman, Susan (Kristy Bird), lives in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village with her husband, Sam (Stacy Main), a photographer. Gloria (Alexia Boyagian), a young girl who lives in one of the building’s other apartments, visits Susan to keep her company, run errands for her, and occasionally be a thorn in Susan’s side. A bumbling ex-cop/ex-con by the name of Carlino (Neil Torrie) and a smooth-talking criminal named Harry Roat, Jr. (Craig Norton) attempt to pull a con on Susan in order to acquire a very important and valuable doll. At the same time, Susan is unexpectedly visited by a man named Mike Talman (Tim Houghton), who is one of Sam’s war buddies and was hoping to stop by for a visit with him.
Blindness is still a fairly new part of Susan’s life and the sense of her still learning and adapting to this new aspect of her life (particularly when she is overwhelmed by a stressful situation) is clearly present in Ms. Bird’s performance. Also present, and absolutely necessary for this entire show to be believable, is the sense of Susan’s strength and determination, which Ms. Bird portrays very nicely. Susan spends much of her time alone, and another great challenge for the actor is expressing feelings and reactions without dialogue. Ms. Bird handles this challenge effectively, and in particular, there is a moment where she reacts to a major turning point in the plot, and her visibly shaken — yet almost silent — reaction sent a chill down my spine.
Every great hero needs a great villain, and Roat is that villain. The actor who plays Roat must be able to portray a sociopath who has the intelligence and wherewithal to make you not even think for a second that he is a sociopath — until something or someone gets in the way of his plans. Mr. Norton does this beautifully with his performance. His Roat is smooth-talking — charismatic even — and disturbingly detached emotionally, which makes the moments where his frustration explodes into a fit of rage chillingly effective.
Neil Torrie’s Carlino is the perfect archetype of the bumbling, all-brawn-no-brain “New Yawk” wiseguy. There were volume issues with some of Mr. Torre’s lines, but I imagine this is due to the show being early in its run. Tim Houghton plays Mike Talman with just the right mixture of warmth and clipped emotion. Kudos to Ms. Boyagian for marvelously creating Gloria’s pertinent, fair weather attitude. The true standout moments were those where Gloria quietly pushes back against Susan’s scolding, giving a wonderfully subtle sense of Gloria’s troubled home life which, although not important to the overall story, gives a deeper understanding of this all-important character.
The costumes were appropriately ’60s, and set designer/director Jim Finan’s set had a comfortable, lived-in feel. The exposed brick wall was a nice touch. My only complaint is that the all-important centre stage window seemed a bit high for the sight lines, but the cast were convincing enough to make me believe.
Mr. Finan stages the action of the play well, particularly in the opening scene, which establishes the mood of the play perfectly, while also giving a sense of realism with Carlino’s flashlight flitting about, casting light on the audience, and drawing us into the action that is taking place.
The show is being staged until October 31st, 2018 at the beautiful Cameco Capitol Arts Centre, 20 Queen St., Port Hope.
Evening performances are at 8:00 pm (except the performance on October 31st, which is at 7 pm) and matinees are at 2:00 pm.
The show is approximately 2 hours with one 20-minute intermission.
More details are available at capitoltheatre.com.