Los Angeles Theater Review: WAIT UNTIL DARK (Geffen Playhouse in Westwood)

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by Tom Chaits on October 17, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Thrillers are always a tough act to pull off in the theater which is why they are so rarely produced. When the show is a revival (or reworking as it is here) and it has been turned into a widely seen motion picture the ability to involve, surprise and shock the audience is greatly diminished. Such is the case with the production of Wait Until Dark currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. If you have never seen the film, and judging from the audience reaction many hadn’t, then your viewing experience will be very different than if you had seen it. If, going into the show, you know what evil lurks around every bend there is a great risk that you will be totally under-whelmed. Luckily the producers had the great insight to cast Alison Pill in the Audrey Hepburn role nearly negating the “been there – seen that” syndrome giving fans of the flick a reason to see the show.

Adam Stein and Alison PIll in Jeffrey Hatcher's world premiere adapation of Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse.

Susan (Ms. Pill), a woman recently blinded in an accident, is left to her own devices in her Greenwich Village basement apartment when her husband Sam (Matt McTighe) goes on a business trip. Unbeknownst to him, a doll was slipped into his briefcase on his last trip. This is no ordinary doll and now its rightful owners, a band of evil miscreants, want it back. Let the terrorizing begin. What unfolds in the next two hours is an epic battle of wits as Susan slowly pieces together the puzzle pieces and strives to survive the night.

Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse.

The changes in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Frederick Knott’s original play seem completely arbitrary (the action now takes place in 1944 instead of 1966, and the nature of the contraband hidden in the doll has changed) and neither help nor hinder the overall effectiveness of the show. In addition, he has made some judicial cuts to the script to keep the story moving but what remains is still an involving, well-structured and evenly paced reveal of events.

Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse.

Under the direction of Matt Shakman the cast milks every bit of suspense out of the script. Pill is a wonder to watch and she has the audience rooting for her every step of the way. McTighe as Sam does fine in what is mostly a thankless role. Brighid Fleming (recently seen in The Nether at the Kirk Douglas Theater) plays Gloria, the girl from a broken family who lives upstairs and checks in on Susan, with great conviction and is completely believable as a troubled teen. Mather Zickel as Mike, a long lost friend of Sam’s, gives a very personable and pleasant performance. Rod McLachlan as Detective Carlino and Adam Stein as bad guy Roat are slightly above passable and the weakest links in the cast although Stein redeems himself in the end.

Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse.

The set by Craig Siebels serves the show well and the lighting (or sometimes lack of lighting) by Elizabeth Harper set the mood perfectly. The music by composer and sound designer Jonathan Snipes is a bit overdone hitting the audience over the head in not so subtle a manner but in the end it is a minor distraction.

If you’re are a Wait Until Dark newbie by all means head to the Geffen. If you a tried and true fan of the film you’ll still want to catch the amazing Alison Pill and witness how her performance will, within moments, make you completely forget about Audrey Hepburn.

Adam Stein and Alison PIll in Jeffrey Hatcher's world premiere adapation of Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse.photos by Michael Lamont

Wait Until Dark
Geffen Playhouse in Westwood
scheduled to end on November 17, 2013
for tickets, call (310) 208-5454
or visit http://www.geffenplayhouse.com

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